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On January 20, 2023, Wolf Theiss announced that the merger of ALBtelecom and ONE Telecommunications (reported by CEE Legal Matters on May 17, 2022) has now closed.

Kalo & Associates has advised OTP Bank Albania on the merger of its local operation with Alpha Bank Albania, with the resulting outfit to continue as OTP Bank Albania.

With the war in Ukraine raging for more than six months, law firms across the region have reported increased workloads in corporate and M&A, tax, employment, immigration law, and inquiries on the sanctions regimes in relevant jurisdictions, noting that companies from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus are variously looking for a new home. Whether to avoid sanctions or escape the war, those companies consider a variety of factors in determining where to go.

On January 4, CEE Legal Matters reported that Dorda, working with Loyens & Loeff, had advised Croma-Pharma on entering into a business combination agreement with the European Healthcare Acquisition & Growth Company. CEE In-House Matters spoke with Andreas Prinz, Managing Director at Croma Pharma, to learn more about the deal.

Cerha Hempel has advised ARE Austrian Real Estate on the acquisition of an office and hotel building in Vienna from Generali Real Estate. Schoenherr advised Generali.

Dorda, working with Grub Brugger, has advised ZF Friedrichshafen on its acquisition of insolvent tachograph developer Intellic Germany along with its insolvent Austrian assets. Held Berdnik Astner & Partner reportedly advised the seller.

Belarus's Revera law firm has teamed up with Adamante Management to open the firm's Cyprus office.

On July 9, 2021, substantial amendments to Belarusian currency legislation entered into force. We will briefly review the key amendments.

Economic optimism in the face of adversity, the introduction of English law instruments, and some new potential for growth are the highlights in Belarus, according to Aleinikov & Partners Senior Partner Denis Aleinikov.

Contributed by Ibrahimovic & Co.

Vukmir & Associates and BH Legal have advised CEFTA on a cross-border project titled CEFTA Intellectual Property and Related Rights 2021-03.

This is a breakthrough moment for Bosnia and Herzegovina as the country receives the EU membership candidacy status but, still, there are difficulties ahead, according to Miljkovic & Partners Managing Partner Sead Miljkovic.

Bozhko Poryazov has been promoted to a Partner position with Popov Arnaudov & Partners in Sofia.

Schoenherr has advised Metro on its acquisition of a 25% stake in Kosik Holding with a 5% option on top if Kosik expands into other CEE markets in collaboration with Metro. White & Case reportedly advised Kosik.

Former Counsel Gergana Monovska and former Senior Associate Valentin Bojilov have been promoted to Partner at Djingov Gouginski Kyutchukov & Velichkov.

Aside from Croatia entering the Euro and Schengen zones, there have been numerous other legislative updates of note – primarily in the spheres of labor and land rights – according to Miroslav Plascar, Co-Managing Partner of Zuric i Partneri in cooperation with Kinstellar.

Kinstellar’s Croatian affiliate Zuric i Partneri has advised Angelina Yachtcharter Holding on its acquisition of 85% of the shares of Jadranka Yachting from Jadranka d.d. and Arman Percinlic.

Former Osborne Clarke CEO Simon Beswick has joined Kinstellar’s Board of Directors as a non-executive member.

Allen & Overy has advised Raiffeisenbank on its EUR 500 million issuance of senior non-preferred sustainable notes under its international debt issuance program. White & Case reportedly advised the managers.

BPV Braun Partners, working with Watson Farley & Williams, has advised the Creditas Group on the acquisition of British energy group InterGen. Herbert Smith Freehills reportedly advised the sellers.

Schoenherr has advised Metro on its acquisition of a 25% stake in Kosik Holding with a 5% option on top if Kosik expands into other CEE markets in collaboration with Metro. White & Case reportedly advised Kosik.

Kyriakides Georgopoulos has advised Optima Bank on its acquisition of five portfolios of receivables from performing corporate exposures in the secondary market.

 Metro A.E.B.E. has appointed Dimitris Smirnis to Executive Director - Legal & Government Affairs.

Renewable energy is slowly becoming an evergreen industry in Greece, with strong investor interest in wind and solar power projects that stand to hasten the recovery of the country, according to Reed Smith Partner Dimitris Assimakis.

In a recent case (C-61/21), contrary to settled case-law, the Court of Justice of the European Union did not oblige a Member State to pay compensation. Article 13 of the 2008/50/EC Directive on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe obliges Member States to ensure that ambient air levels of NO2 and PM10 do not exceed EU-wide limit values. A resident in the Paris region considered that the French State had failed to ensure this and by this he has suffered damage to his health since 2003, caused by the deterioration of the ambient air quality in the Paris agglomeration. For these damages, he has claimed a total of EUR 21 million from the French State as compensation.

Former Diageo Head of Legal & Operations and DPO Gabor Kukovecz has joined the Phoenix Group in Hungary as the Group Legal Director.

The Bucharest-based Iulia Berea Law Office and the Budapest-based Chen Law Firm have joined the BLS-CEE network. The two firms' respective Managing Partners – Iulia Berea and Chen Chen – have also joined BLS-CEE as Collaborating Partners.

Triniti has advised Fort Aero on the addition of Piaggio P.180 Avanti II push-prop aircraft to its fleet.

TGS Baltic has announced the appointment of Dalia Augaite, Sandra Bliuvaite-Sulciene, Marius Brasiunas, Martti Peetsalu, and Chirag Mody as Partners, while Tadas Varapnickas, Karolina Lapinskaite, and Triinu Jarviste have been appointed as Associate Partners at the firm.

Triniti has promoted former Attorney-at-Law Maarja Pild to Associate Partner in Estonia as of January 2023.

The information and technology sector has grown exponentially in Kosovo in the past five years, mainly focusing on the provision of services to international markets. This growth has happened mainly because of two reasons: first, the labor force is cheaper compared to the European market and, second, around 70% of the population is under the age of 35 and has advanced digital skills. The mix of these two has ensured access to international markets and the provision of quality deliverables.

Squire Patton Boggs has successfully represented Kosovo in an International Chamber of Commerce arbitration concerning the revocation of a microfinance license.

The latest legislative amendments on private international law and property ownership are promising for foreign investors, while Kosovo’s renewable energy investments are on the rise, according to Vokshi & Lata Senior Partner Adem Vokshi.

TGS Baltic has advised Vilnius-headquartered renewable energy company Green Genius on its acquisition of a 100-megawatt solar PV project in Latvia.

Sorainen has advised Tietoevry on its lease agreement with developer Capitalica for office space in the Verde office center in Riga's Skanste district.

Cobalt has advised Lightrock and Haniel on leading a USD 30 million investment round into Aerones. 

Ellex Valiunas has successfully represented Neringa Dangvyde Macate before the European Court of Human Rights, on a pro bono basis, in a dispute related to restrictions on the distribution of Dangvyde Macate’s fairy tale book, Amber Heart, depicting same-sex relationships and its subsequent labeling as harmful to children under the age of 14.

TGS Baltic has announced the appointment of Dalia Augaite, Sandra Bliuvaite-Sulciene, Marius Brasiunas, Martti Peetsalu, and Chirag Mody as Partners, while Tadas Varapnickas, Karolina Lapinskaite, and Triinu Jarviste have been appointed as Associate Partners at the firm.

Contributed by ILaw Lextal.

CEELMDirect Profile Pick: A series of interviews with Premium profile-holders on the CEELMDirect legal directory. Today’s interview: Robert Bachovski Sinkoli, Managing Partner at Bachovski Sinkoli Attorneys in North Macedonia.

A new Consumer Protection Act (the "Act") entered into force in North Macedonia on 15 November 2022.

Direct marketing consists of any marketing that relies on direct communication or distribution to individual consumers, rather than through a third party. Unlike traditional public relations campaigns pushed out through a third party, such as media publications or mass media, direct marketing campaigns operate independently to communicate with target audiences directly.

Contributed by ACI Partners.

The country's EU candidate status and grave security concerns gave rise to far-reaching legislative reform in Moldova, with IPOs and digitalization in full swing, according to ACI Partners Partner Cristina Martin.

The Moldovan Government continues to promote in-depth reforms designed to meet the challenges of a digital economy. The last summer was marked by the adoption of new regulations aiming to stimulate private-sector innovation. The new legislation also instituted new responsibilities for digital platforms for creating, sharing, and streaming digital content to Moldovan users.

The new General Collective Agreement („GCA“) has been published at the Official Gazette of Montenegro no. 150/22 on 30, December 2022 and will be valid for period of three years from 31, December 2022 when it came into legal force.

Former Karanovic & Partners Partner Milena Roncevic Pejovic has established Pejovic Legal in Montenegro.

Komnenic & Associates Lawyer Nemanja Radovic has been promoted to a Partner position within the firm on January 1, 2023.

On 14 December 2022 the lower house, Sejm, passed a bill on family foundations. The law was then sent to the Senate, where amendments were made to it, now pending before the Sejm. Regardless of these legislative works, it is expected that the law will come into force 3 months after its promulgation. It should therefore be possible to establish a family foundation as early as the first half of 2023. 

Schoenherr and Norton Rose Fulbright, working with Davis Polk & Wardwell and Ashurst, have advised JP Morgan Chase and other financing parties on the refinancing of Diebold Nixdorf debt and the provision of USD 400 million in new capital. Sullivan & Cromwell and K2Legal Korbonski i Partnerzy reportedly advised the borrower.

Former UPC Polska Board Member and Chief Legal, Regulatory, Corporate Affairs Officer Dominika Niewiadomska-Siniecka has joined VeloBank as CEO Advisor, Proxy, and Managing Director.

Romanian lawyer Dan Rugina has joined V-Nova in London as VP Head of Legal.

Sole practitioner Liviu Bosoanca has joined Baiculescu & Asociatii as an Of Counsel and Head of the firm's Dispute Resolution department.

Recruiting staff in Romania may seem daunting to employers, specifically to those foreign-owned, unfamiliar with Romanian employment legislation. Nevertheless, if certain basic rules are determined and further observed, the recruiting procedure should run smooth and clean from a legal perspective.

The truth is rarely pure and never simple. But in the case of Russia's military operation in Ukraine, it just might be. Russia breached Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, which prohibits the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. Russia's acts have prompted the EU, the UK and the US to impose economic sanctions, such as freezing assets and disconnecting Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments network. Whilst the number of private businesses that are halting their activities in Russia is steadily growing, Russia has adopted a law paving the way for expropriations of assets of foreign firms that leave the country following economic sanctions. But what can foreign companies do if Russia proceeds to take their assets, if they are unable to freely transfer returns from investments out of Russia or if their profits collapse?

Baker McKenzie and DLA Piper have joined the plethora of firms announcing their exit from the Russian market.

Debevoise & Plimpton, Dentons, Dechert, and CMS have announced they are closing their Russian offices and exiting the market.

Spanish authority for personal data protection recently passed a decision rejecting one of 101 appeals filed by NOYB, privacy activist organisation, against 101 European company for using Google Analytics.

Cvjeticanin & Partners has successfully represented Tehnomedia in disputed trademark registration proceedings before Serbia’s Intellectual Property Office.

Harrisons has advised the EBRD on its EUR 12 million unsecured loan to the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, in Serbia, for the financing of the implementation of energy efficiency measures in around 80 public buildings in 20 municipalities.

Kocian Solc Balastik has advised J&T Agriculture and Ecology on its acquisition of 11 companies within Spearhead Czech and Spearhead Slovakia and the related acquisition financing by a banking group led by Komercni Banka. Clifford Chance advised the lenders.

Former Osborne Clarke CEO Simon Beswick has joined Kinstellar’s Board of Directors as a non-executive member.

Partner Stepan Starha has been elevated to an Equity Partner with Havel & Partners, while Lawyer Jiri Kunasek has been promoted to Partner.

Contributed by Kavcic, Bracun & Partners.

Sibincic Krizanec has appointed Matic Novak to Senior Partner and Dinar Rahmatullin to Junior Partner. The firm updated its name after the promotion round to Sibincic Krizanec Novak.

Former Schoenherr Ljubljana Co-Managing Partner Eva Skufca has established the eponymous Law Firm Skufca in Slovenia.

The rapid developments in the world of technology put the law into a difficult concept puzzle to follow. While the discussions on smart contracts made with blockchain technology have not yet ended, a new organization that can direct the life of business has taken its place in the international market; Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO). This mechanism offers people new democratized ways to operate their organizations, radically separated traditional institutions.

Turunc has advised Bogazici Ventures on its investment in UP School's first financing round. Bagzibagli Erdem & Sahin advised UP School.

Paksoy has advised Univar Solutions on its acquisition of Kale Kimya. Egemenoglu advised the sellers.

In the 25 January 2023 final decision in the case of Ukraine and the Netherlands v. russia, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”) declared the complaints partly admissibile. The Grand Chamber will now decide the case on the merits.

Following their appointment to Counsel in January 2023, former Senior Associate Inna Kostrytska will lead Integrites' Employment practice while former Senior Associate Kristina Shyposha heads the firm's Business Protection, Compliance, and Anti-Corruption practice.

Integrites has signed a pro bono collaboration agreement with the Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs of Ukraine and the Affordable Housing Institute aimed at developing housing for war veterans and their families.