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For historical reasons, there are basic similarities among all the cadastres of Western Europe. They are all, in one way or another, based on the principles of the French cadastre as defined by Napoleon early in the nineteenth century. A basic principle was that it should consist of two main parts: a verbal description and a map showing the locations and boundaries of all land units. The maps were established systematically, area by area. Since the main purpose was taxation, the original cadastre was arranged according to the names of the owners, showing each owner’s parcels with area, land use, quality and value. Later, another cadastre emerged parallel to this one, arranged according to the numbers of the parcels.
An important feature is the connection between the cadastre and the land register.In Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands, there is nowadays a very close link between cadastres and land registers. Because of the unique definitions in the cadastral records and maps, it has been possible to introduce systems of title registration with a high degree of security and reliability in all these countries.
In France - the mother country of the cadastre - the unification of thecadastre and the land register has not progressed as far. The French cadastre is not as comprehensive as the aforementioned countries. It also has less legal validity, and is still mainly a fiscal cadastre lacking the very close link between cadastre and legal land registers.
A common trait in all of Western Europe is that the cadastre provides systematic coverage of the entire territory, and that collected and recorded data are continually updated. Parcels are described according to their uses, square measures and taxation values, their buildings and topography; ownerships are recorded; links to other administrative registers and files are established.
Of the Scandinavian countries, Denmark has the system most similar to the Western European ones. Denmark has long had a comprehensive cadastral map, covering the whole country and connected to a common reference system. Cadastral surveys for subdivisions, etc., are made by private surveyors. However, the records are kept, and the cadastral maps are maintained by a central government office in Copenhagen called 'Matrikel-kontoret'. The cadastre is closely integrated with the land registration system, which is of the title registration type.
The same close integration is also found in Sweden and Finland, which both have systems of title registration based on cadastral units. In these countries the cadastre has developed gradually from simple taxation records loosely linked to maps to a comprehensive system with a high degree of reliability. In Sweden the urban and rural systems have now been combined into a common register. One single agency, the Central Board for Real Estate Data (CFD), collects and transforms selected cadastral and land register information for automatic data processing.
Norway has not previously had a proper cadastral system, relying instead on old tax records, only partially supported by maps. The country has, however, decided to establish an automated system - the GAB system - providing data on land units, addresses and buildings. Its main purpose is to provide information, not to serve as a legal basis for taxation, land registration, etc. In the long run, however, it will probably assume an importance far beyond its role in the dissemination of information.