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The Buzz in Bosnia & Herzegovina: Interview with Andrea Zubovic-Devedzic of CMS

The Buzz in Bosnia & Herzegovina: Interview with Andrea Zubovic-Devedzic of CMS

Bosnia and Herzegovina
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We’re still in the aftermath of the general elections that occurred in October of 2018,” says Andrea Zubovic-Devedzic, Partner at CMS in Sarajevo, who describes the elections as “ the biggest topic in 2018.” According to Zubovic-Devedzic, “there was a lot of wait-and-see before the elections. The hope was the government would be formed quickly and things would pick up. But unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet, and we’re still waiting.”

As a result, she says, a lot of large-scale projects and important legislative work remain on hold. "That can be frustrating,” she admits. "Especially as the country is still focusing on foreign investment, and obviously foreign investors are not keen to enter a market were there is uncertainty about what the government's policies will be for the next four years. So the aftermath is still being felt.” In addition, she says, “some of the legislative initiatives put forward before the elections were rushed, some would argue based on insufficient analysis, and with a failure to properly consult the business sector. This is something that could, and certainly should, change."

Zubovic-Devedzic claims that it’s “difficult to give a general response as to a question about the state of the economy, though she notes that “several areas have seen improvement, such as the IT sector, where there is a lot of interest from other countries.” According to her, “there are a number of start-ups in the country, and lots of young people willing to take the risk — and it usually pays off.” 

“So some areas are doing better than before,” Zubovic-Devedzic says. "But in many areas there is still much justified frustration. Still long and drawn-out bankruptcy and generally court proceedings, for instance. Still very complex regulations, and lack of state support for business. 

Still it’s not only the younger-skewing sectors that are doing well. “Some sectors are strong," Zubovic-Devedzic emphasizes. “The Energy sector is strong, for instance. We’ve been involved in several deals recently, involving both renewables and traditional forms of energy. Foreign investors remain interested, regardless of the complexities of the local market. We are aware of negotiations going on and potential investment coming in … but of course this, again, depends on the ultimate formation of the government.” And another thing that’s happening is PPP,” she adds. "For years there were only a few such projects going on in BiH, but recent governments seem to have finally realized the real value of this model, and it appears they want to expand the use of PPP solutions beyond energy, into transportation and other areas.” There is no national PPP law, she explains, "so this is more on the canton level — it’s more a local government thing.” Still, she says, “the value of PPPs is being recognized on all levels, and we hope to see more of it going forward.”

Finally, turning to Bosnia & Herzegovina’s legal market, Zubovic-Devedzic points to a new draft of the Advocacy Law that has been put forward and has been shared with the public. “It doesn’t involve that many changes,” she says, “but we’re all hoping to see the country's very strict laws on competition in the legal market being loosened, especially relating to the participation of foreign law firms.” According to her, “it’s still a very conservative market. But we have seen several spin-offs lately, trying to implement a more modern model. This trend appears to be continuing, as more lawyers are willing to try it on their own. I think this is something we hope to see more of in the future.”

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