The Slovak government approved a bill strictly regulating the sale of agricultural land in Slovakia, local news agency TASR reported on Thursday. "The bill states that the acquirer must be legally resident in the Slovak Republic for at least 10 years," Minister of Agriculture Lubomir Jahnatek said. According to the bill, owners who are about to sell agricultural plots of more than 20 acres will have to offer the land to local and national agricultural entities before it can be sold to European buyers, added Jahnatek. The bill follows an expiring moratorium on selling agricultural land to foreigners, implemented in Slovakia since the European Union (EU) membership on May 1, 2004. In 2011, the EU approved Slovakia's request to prolong the moratorium by three years to April 30, 2014. Opposition party MPs Jozef Viskupic and Martin Fecko warned of a "legal vacuum" looming after the date that would enable foreigners to buy up large swaths of Slovak land in an uninhibited fashion. According to Viskupic, other countries such as Hungary and Poland had negotiated stricter conditions, according to which the potential buyer must prove that it is active in agriculture. The Slovak Agriculture Ministry has said it wants to protect agricultural land in Slovakia from speculative deals. In the past, plots originally sold as agricultural land had their status subsequently changed to that of construction plots. Lawyer Silvia Hlavackova in the daily Hospodarske noviny newspaper said the new law may be toothless. "The bill may place foreign entities from the EU at the end of the buyer chain, but it does not prescribe the price at which the land must be sold," she said. "If a foreign entity offers a price above the market standard to the seller in advance, the first three steps may become a formality, as local agricultural entities probably will not be able to beat the offer," she added.