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On April 5, 2022, leading lawyers from across all of CEE will be coming together for the Dealer's Choice Conference and Deals of the Years Awards Banquet. Leading up to the event, we spoke with Oana Ijdelea of Ijdelea & Associates to learn what they are looking forward to the most.

With a population of approximately 2.8 million inhabitants, Albania’s economy is mostly composed of SMEs. To a large extent the financial sector is driven by commercial banks, however, in recent years, thanks also to extensive regulation by the central bank (Bank of Albania – BoA), non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) have picked up a significant portion of the market.

“The genesis of Albania’s EU accession talks dates back to June 2003, when Albania, alongside other Western Balkan countries, was identified as a potential candidate for EU membership,” explains Deloitte Legal Local Legal Partner Sabina Lalaj. While Hoxha, Memi & Hoxha Partner Eris Hoxha points out that Albania was a candidate country since 2014, official membership negotiations were opened only on March 25, 2020. According to Kalo & Associates Co-Managing Partner Aigest Milo, “the next step is for the first Inter-Governmental Conference to be held (presumably during the first semester of 2022),” but Hoxha says “no specific date has been determined yet.”

As one of the next wave candidates for membership in the European Union, Albania went a long distance in the harmonization of its legal framework with the acquis communautaire in recent years. The most recent country progress report of the European Commission, issued as part of the 2020 Enlargement Package for the Western Balkans, recognized the legislative efforts of the country to align its legal framework to EU requirements and to enhance the country’s ability to assume the obligations of membership.Albania first ventured into the legal regulation of antitrust in 1995 by introducing a law On Competition, which dealt with antitrust, as well as with unfair competition and consumer protection matters. As a first attempt, it raised a lot of questions, but it also opened the topic of competition law in the country and served as a starting point in developing the relevant legal framework.

The fiscal regime of companies and contractors operating onshore in the exploration & production segment of the oil and gas industry in Albania was fundamentally changed by Law no. 153/2020 On the Fiscal Regime in the Hydrocarbon Sector (the Hydrocarbon Fiscal Law or HFL), that came into effect on February 2, 2021.

With oil reserves constantly estimated between 150 and 200 million barrels, Albania has been widely regarded as one of the richest in hydrocarbons European countries, whereas Patos-Marinza oil area is recognized as the largest onshore oil field in continental Europe. Therefore, it was only normal for the industry to be quickly regulated upon the transition of Albania towards democracy in the early 1990s, by adopting industry specific legislation. Law 7746/1993 and Law 7811/1994, dealing with the granting of exploration and exploitation rights and the taxation of the activities, respectively.

“Today, what we are doing, is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws, and granting banks significant new authority.” President Clinton’s quote is quite relevant nowadays in Albania, where a major overhaul of the financial system’s legal architecture is being implemented. Indeed, in just three weeks, the Albanian Parliament enacted four very important pieces of legislation: the Law on Payment Services, the Law on Capital Markets, the Law on Collective Investment Undertakings, and the Law on Financial Markets Based on Distributed Ledgers Technology.

The control of merger transactions was first introduced in Albania in 1995. This law, however, provided only rudimentary guidance, and merger control really took off only after 2003, following the approval of Law no. 9121, “On Competition Protection” (the “Competition Law”), which established an independent competition authority – the Albanian Competition Authority (the ACA) – and provided for procedures that were aligned with EU standards. The Competition Law has been amended a number of times to further approximate its provisions with the EU acquis. The ACA has also issued regulations and instructions for the implementation of the merger control regime.

On July 07, 2020, the Albanian Parliament approved Law no. 112/2020, dated 29.07.2020 “On the register of beneficial owners.”

The COVID-19 pandemic hit the Western Balkans right during a period of accelerating economic activity and a promising economic outlook for 2020. The rapid spread of the virus forced the governments of the Western Balkans countries to introduce protective measures, lockdowns, and temporary business shutdowns. These restrictions had a devastating direct economic impact on a wide range of sectors – particularly the hospitality and transport industries – and the measures had many indirect side effects that significantly decreased economic activity.

In 2015, Albania harmonized its legislation with EU Directive 2009/72/EC through law no. 43/2015 “On Electrical Energy Sector” (the “Energy Law”).

Over the past few years CMS advised the OTP Bank Group on an extensive series of acquisitions across Bulgaria, Moldova, and former Yugoslavia. This series of separate deals was shortlisted for CEE Legal Matters’ CEE Deal of the Year in each of the countries involved, actually winning the 2018 Deal of the Year for Bulgaria and the 2019 Deal of the Year Award for Montenegro. We reached out to Eva Talmacsi, who led CMS’s multi-jurisdictional team, to learn more about the firm’s impressive work on OTP’s behalf.

During the last decade, Albania has undertaken several initiatives to liberalize the electric energy sector and increase local generation capacities. Such measures have created a lively market, especially in the renewal energy segment.

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