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Enkelejda Mucaj, a partner at Tonucci & Partners in Tirana, has been appointed the General Lawyer of Albania.

"Albania right now has a loaded political and economic situation,” says A.R.S. Legal & Financial Services Manager and Attorney at Law Elisabeta Nezaj, "considering the earthquake that hits on November 26th." That 6.4-magnitude earthquake that hit northwestern Albania was felt mainly in Durres and Tirana and as far away as Taranto and Belgrade, ultimately killing 51 people in the country — making it the world’s deadliest earthquake in 2019 — and causing massive damage to homes and infrastructure. According to her, "all government bodies are focused on providing help for the people who suffered from this event, and we are taking support from other governments to reconstruct the buildings that were damaged.”

Albania's A.R.S. Legal & Financial Services has become the "partner office" of Cabinet Stoyanovitch Avocats, a member of the Justinian Lawyers network.

CEE Legal Matters first interviewed Ingo Steinwender in 2014, near the end of his first year as Group Head of Legal at CA Immobilien Anlagen AG, one of the largest real estate companies in Austria. Six years later, we check in.

Ivan Males, from Croatia, is Senior Associate with DLA Piper in Vienna. He is a Finance, Projects & Restructuring practitioner with a focus on financing transactions and the infrastructure sector. In addition, he has gained particular knowledge on corporate and M&A cross-border transactions, notably in CEE and SEE markets.

Austria is one of the most desirable destinations for investors from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. It is frequently chosen as a country for investment or as a hub for doing business in Eastern and Southern Europe. In addition to Austria’s attractive economic and political environments, investors can benefit from Austria’s legal environment, in particular (a) the general accessibility of its market; (b) Austria’s flexible corporate law, which has a lot of similarities with CIS corporate law; (c) the country’s comfortable tax regime; and (d) benefits the country extends to startups. Below we briefly consider these benefits.

Sorainen has successfully represented Belomo, a Belarusian enterprise specializing in optomechanical and optoelectronic equipment, in arbitration before the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Sorainen has advised DEG on the acquisition of a stake in Belgips, a Belarusian manufacturer of gypsum-based building materials. Belgips was reportedly advised by Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners.

Sorainen has launched a special pro bono program dedicated to supporting projects in the Baltics and Belarus set up to help solve pandemic-related issues.

A scandal shaking the pharmaceutical market of Bosnia and Herzegovina for several years now related to the unlawful delisting of foreign medicines manufacturers has moved to a silent but almost thriller-tense phase as the country awaits the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s final decision. The current countdown was preceded by a unique crisis in 2018, when two subsidiaries of foreign pharma giants that had been delisted decided to fight back, even as a number of smaller players liquidated their companies and withdrew from the market. 

Maric & Co has advised Shandong International and its Bosnian subsidiary SDHS-CSI BH Banja Luka on the Banja Luka-Prijedor-Novi Grad highway construction project.

“All activities in Bosnia & Herzegovina in the past two months have had to do with the state of emergency caused by the crisis, as they will for the foreseeable future,“ says Dino Aganovic, Head of Legal and Compliance at Heta Asset Resolution in Sarajevo. Nonetheless, he says, as dangerous as the virus is, he believes in being cautious about the steps taken to address it. “I must admit that I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to complete shutdowns,“ he says. “The global economy is sliding into a recession that is bound to impact poorer societies in terrible ways. We need to be thinking about the future as well, not just the present.“

In 2010, France’s Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament published the results of tests of breast implants produced by the French company PIP and banned their use, due to an increasing number of reports of incidents related to impaired implant integrity and subsequent health-related complications.

CMS has advised Korea's Solarian Holdings Ltd. on the acquisition of a 5 MW photovoltaic power plant in Bulgaria from FEC Perun.

“The government acted well and fast in response to the crisis,“ says Viktor Tokushev, Managing Partner of Tokushev & Partners in Sofia. “The problem is, however, that the majority of the measures it enacted focus mainly on healthcare and the safety of the population, with other sectors lagging behind.“ In addition, he says, while many economic measures have been announced, not many have been actually implemented.

Advertising of medical devices is a significant market activity in the regulated pharma industry. Companies are always in search of new tactics and business strategies to remain competitive in the market and to attract new customers, in conditions of fierce market competition.

Former Glinska & Miskovic lawyers Ivona Andelovic, Petra Siketic, and Marko Tomic have left their former home to launch the new Andelovic, Siketic & Tomic law firm in Zagreb.

“One of the key questions in Croatia right now is the upcoming parliamentary elections,” begins Mate Lovric, Partner at Lovric Novokmet Smrcek. “They will either occur in July or sometime this fall (although July seems more likely). The current government would prefer them to be earlier, when the memory of successful measures against the COVID-19 crisis is still fresh, while the opposition would like to see them as late as possible, of course.”

Similar to other areas of human endeavour, healthcare is bound to undergo the inevitable process of digital transformation. In the last two years the Czech Republic has taken its first steps towards digitizing its healthcare system by introducing mandatory electronic prescriptions and electronic sick notes and is about to introduce an electronic medications record. Unfortunately, there has been little progress on other fronts. Moreover, the Ministry of Health has yet to complete its draft law setting common standards and rules for eHealth, and it is unlikely to meet its current goal of having the law go into effect in 2021.

Dentons has advised CPI Property Group on a successful tender offer of bonds and the issue of EUR 750 million 2.75% Notes due 2026 under CPI's EUR 8 billion Medium Term Note Program.

An amendment to the Civil Code will enter into force on 1 July 2020, which (i) cancels (save for some exceptions) the pre-emption right of co-owners of real estate, (ii) lifts the ban on contractual penalties against tenants of residential premises, and (iii) significantly changes the legal regulation of unit owners associations.

The White Paper on Artificial Intelligence published on February 19th by the European Commission presents some important building block policy options to enable the trustworthy and secure development of artificial intelligence in the EU, fully respecting the presiding values and the fundamental rights of its citizens. The enormous volume of data which has already been generated and that yet to be generated constitutes an opportunity for Europe to position itself at the forefront of global AI policy. The use of AI brings both fears and uncertainties: on the one hand, citizens fear they will be left powerless against the information asymmetries of algorithmic decision-making, while on the other, companies are truly concerned with legal uncertainty.

Dracopoulos & Vassalakis, Your Legal Partners, and Alexiou-Kosmopoulos have been appointed as legal advisors to the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund on the privatization of regional ports of Alexandroupolis, Heraklion, Igoumenitsa, and Volos through the sale of majority stakes in the state-owned port operating companies.

Koutalidis has advised Aktor Concessions S.A. on its successful bid to own, use, administer, operate, and exploit the Marina of Alimos. The concession, which is good for 40 years, was granted by the Hellenic Asset Development Fund. The HADF was advised by Dracopoulos & Vassalakis and Your Legal Partners.

In recent years, and for multiple reasons, cyber-attacks against healthcare providers have increased significantly on a global level. First, IT platforms and devices used by healthcare providers have a technical diversity, while sources devoted to an integrated cybersecurity system for these IT platforms are often limited, making the IT systems vulnerable and ideal targets of potential cyber-attacks. Second, health data qualifies as “highly sensitive data,” which is considered very valuable on the black market compared to other types of personal data.

Market Spotlight - Hungary

The Hungarian banking sector enjoyed a banner year in 2019, but still faces challenges. Legislative changes are creating more aggressive competition between banks, which in turn are cutting fees and demanding flexible financing structures in order to survive. Although some banks are unwilling to take part in these practices, one thing is certain: All banks must adapt to the new regulatory environment. I’ve outlined some of the major challenges that Hungarian banks face in the near future.

Sorainen has successfully represented the Polybius Foundation, which had conducted an initial coin offering, in a dispute involving one of the buyers, Maksim Velitsko, who was attempting to force a reversal of his token purchase. 

Cobalt has advised AS LHV Pank, an Estonian credit institution with shares are listed on the Tallinn Stock Exchange, on the establishment of its EUR 1 billion Covered Bond Program.

Ellex Raidla has advised NGO Back to Work on testing one of the world's first digital immunity passports — an application that enables users to securely share data when a person has taken a COVID-19 virus test or an antibody test.

“The current political situation in Kosovo is fragile, since the assembly, in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, dismissed the government of Prime Minister Albin Kurti in a no-confidence vote on March 25, 2020, triggering a huge political crisis in the country,” says Fisnik Salihu, Partner at the RPHS Law Firm in Pristina. The government was dismissed, he says, “mainly after a dispute between coalition partners over whether to declare a state of emergency and the way the dialogue with Serbia should be handled in the future.”

According to Sabina Lalaj, the Local Legal Partner of Deloitte Legal in Albania and Kosovo, the current situation in Kosovo revolves around the unfortunate combination of the still-growing Covid-19 pandemic and the political crisis arising from the recent dismissal of Interior Minister Agim Veliu — a member of the Democratic League of Kosovo party, the junior partner leader of the country’s fragile governing coalition — by Prime Minister Albin Kurti, a member of the senior Vetevendosje (“Self-Determination”) party. The combination of the two crises has put the country’s growth on hold, and significantly limited any chance of effective government.

In addition to their traditional role guiding companies through legal and regulatory waters and managing disputes, General Counsels are increasingly called upon to provide input on strategic matters. An expert panel at the second annual Balkan GC Summit considered how this change in the nature of the General Counsel role is manifesting itself in the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

In accordance with statistical data from 2018 and 2019, Latvia’s State Agency of Medicines concluded that there is a high risk of unavailability of state-reimbursed medicines in the Latvian pharmaceutical market, mainly as a consequence of the behavior of the wholesalers. The same conclusion was reached by the Competition Council of the Republic of Latvia which, in late 2018 and 2019, published two reports on the availability of medicines. Accordingly, it was concluded that the existing regulatory framework was unable to provide an effective market protection mechanism to reduce the risk that patients in Latvia might not have access to state-reimbursed medicines, because after these medicines are made available in Latvia by producers or importers, they are exported to third countries or other EU member states by other market participants.

Sorainen has advised Nasdaq CSD SE on a cross-border merger with Nasdaq CSD Iceland hf. 

Skrastins & Dzenis Partner Vigo Krastins has been appointed an administrator of insolvency proceedings of AS PNB Banka in Latvia.

TGS Baltic and Dentons have advised Ignitis group on the approval of its renewed EUR 1.5 billion medium-term debt securities program and EUR 300 million bond issuance. Clifford Chance and Walles advised intermediaries BNP Paribas, Citi, J.P. Morgan, and Luminor bank.

The Lithuanian life sciences industry has skyrocketed over the last two decades – the average annual growth within the biotechnology and pharmaceutical research and production sector reached over 19%, with 90% of its output exported. in 2017 Lithuania reached 16th place in the Scientific American Worldview biotechnology rankings. Lithuania dominates many (much) larger Central and Eastern European countries and boasts the fastest growing life science industry in Europe.

Cobalt has advised Lithuania's AB Lietuvos Radijo ir Televizijos Centras - Telecentras on the sale of its data transmission and digital television business developed under the Mezon brand to Lithuania's Bite Group.

Cultivation of medical cannabis has become a lucrative business in recent years. Countries around the world have started legalizing this controversial crop, approving medical cannabis in particular in some capacity. In 2018, Canada made history by passing the Cannabis Act, thus becoming the first industrialized nation in the world (and second overall, after Uruguay) to pass legislation allowing adults to purchase marijuana. In addition, over 33 states in the USA have made the use of cannabis legal for medical purposes.

“What we have currently is a technical government,“ says Elena Dimova-Ivanoska, Junior Partner at Cakmakova Advocates, “made up from both the current ruling coalition members and the opposition, and formed to oversee the period leading up to the parliamentary elections which were to take place this April.“ These plans were cut short by the COVID-19 crisis, when the technical government was handed a far more complex task to resolve.

The Polenak Law Firm has advised the EBRD in a new EUR 2.5 million loan to Ohridska Banka AD Skopje under the Green Economy Financing Facility program, which is supported by the EU, Austria, and Western Balkans Investment Framework.

Moldova's Popa & Associates has become a fully integrated office of Grata International.

Following its exit from the Soviet Union, the Republic of Moldova started its independent life with a poorly-regulated medical system that lacked the proper means of ensuring patient safety.

“Naturally, nobody in Moldova was prepared for this situation,” says Roger Gladei, Managing Partner of Gladei & Partners in Chisinau. “Still, even though the first reaction of the Government was sporadic, in the end, they were able to put resources together and come up with an articulated response to the crisis."

“The political situation in Montenegro reflects all the complexities that most Western democracies face at the moment,“ says Vladimir Radonjic, Managing Partner of Radonjic & Associates in Podgorica. “It feels like, in the past few months, since we began battling the crisis, politics has really taken a back seat.“ He says that this may change, though, as the pandemic weakens and a new normal emerges on the horizon.

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, most CEE/SEE countries have introduced provisions to close certain premises, while only some have banned the termination of leases in order to protect tenants who have lost revenues.

Contributed by Karanovic & Partners.

All European countries are now facing the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and each state is undertaking different measures to limit the spread of the virus. Recently, the Polish government has extended the so-called “export ban list” – a list of, in particular, medicinal products and medical devices the export or sale of which abroad may be subject to the objection of the Chief Pharmaceutical Inspector. This list grew by over a thousand items in the past month and has changed from a list of products subject to parallel export due to price differences to a list of products that we want to keep in Poland. Also, the President of the Office for Registration has asked pharmaceutical companies to consider launching clinical trials in these unique circumstances.

BCGL has advised mBank S.A. on financing granted to PGB Holdco and its subsidiaries for the development and start-up of biogas plant facilities. Gessel advised PGB Holdco on the deal.

According to CEE Legal Matters’ 2019 By the Numbers report, the gender balance at commercial law firms in Poland up to the senior associate level is fairly even, with 44.58% being women. However, at the partner level things change drastically, with women representing fewer than 25%. Even then, other reports suggest, many of the women lawyers who do make partner do so not at the larger, high-profile law firms, but at smaller boutiques. The “Women in Law” foundation in Poland was created to address this imbalance, and other forms of gender inequality in the legal industry, with a special focus on legal tech.

Bill no. 134/2020, which includes relief related to paying rent in the context of Covid-19, as analysed in the article “New regulations on the deferral of rental payments during the state of emergency” (the “Article”), entered into effect on 20 May 2020 by Presidential Decree no. 269/2020 as Law no. 62/2020 on the application of rent payment relief during the state of emergency (the “Law”) and was published in the Official Gazette of Romania, Part I, on 21 May 2020.

As a consequence of the state of alert being declared in Romania at national level for a period of 30 days starting 18 May, Law No. 55/2020 on some measures to prevent and combat the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic (“Law No. 55/2020”) has been adopted.

Filip & Company has successfully represented Romania’s Financial Supervisory Authority in a dispute against a former board member of the National Securities Commission involving labor and administrative issues worth over RON 1 million.

The issue of compulsory licenses for patent rights to pharmaceuticals is becoming more and more controversial in Russia, due to the growing number of important court rulings involving compulsory licenses affecting leaders of the pharma industry over the last few years.

Vegas Lex has won what it calls "two crushing victories" in the Arbitration Court of the North-Western District in the interests of pharmaceutical company Alium in disputes related to the construction contract of a large pharmaceutical plant. 

BGP Litigation has announces the opening of a Family Law practice.

NKO Partners has advised industrial real estate developer CTP on its EUR 2.1 million acquisition of six hectares of land in Kragujevac, Serbia, from the City of Kragujevac.

Karanovic & Partners has advised Canadian precious and base metals exploration company Tethyan Resource Corp on its acquisition of ten percent of the shares and management control over the of the Serbian geological company EFPP. NKO Partners advised EFPP on the deal.

The Supreme Court of Austria has recently passed a decision whereby it ordered an employer to compensate the employee for non-material damages in the amount of EUR 2,400.00 (cca EUR 400.00 per month of monitoring), as the company vehicle used by the employee was equipped with GPS system for monitoring without appropriate legal ground. The court deemed that the use of GPS tracking system affected the employee’s privacy and thus created basis for damage compensation.

A well-known chain of pharmacies launched a pilot project to run medical vending machines in Slovakia last year. Although Slovakia has not had such machines in the past, they are not uncommon abroad.

The title of this editorial is a famous song by the Spencer Davis Group – though it makes me wonder if they were CEE in-house lawyers singing to their CEOs.

White & Case has advised lead managers Barclays Bank, Citigroup Global Markets Limited, Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC, and Intesa Sanpaolo Group member Vseobecna Uverova Banka on the Slovak Republic's dual tranche issuance of EUR 2 billion 0.250% notes due 2025 and EUR 2 billion 1.000% notes due 2032.

CBD products are the latest consumer fad, and demand and supply has significantly increased all over the world. The market for CBD products is projected to keep growing, and according to some estimates, the European CBD market should be worth some EUR 1.5 billion by 2023. Despite such rapid development and expansion, placing CBD products on the Slovenian market remains somewhat of a legal grey area.

“Quite a lot, really —it’s like watching a movie on fast forward,” says Schoenherr Attorney at Law Marko Frantar, from Ljubljana, when asked what’s happening in Slovenia during the COVID-19 epidemic. “As elsewhere, we've been seeing a level of state intervention that is unprecedented in terms of both range and magnitude of measures adopted — all compressed into a period of two months."

In The Corner Office feature of CEE Legal Matters we ask Managing Partners at leading law firms across Central and Eastern Europe about their unique roles and responsibilities. In light of current events, the question for this online occurrence of the feature is: "What have been the top three most often asked COVID-19 related questions that you have gotten from clients in the last month?

Recently, the spread of COVID-19 has been classified as a “pandemic” by the World Health Organization. With the global contagion of the epidemic, rumors have appeared regarding the development of new medicines and vaccines in Turkey, as everywhere else, and this situation has caused much misleading news and information to be published by the media and on the Internet.

The coronavirus pandemic has produced material effects on economy and triggered a global economic crisis leading to major changes in commercial activities. Significant part of the world population has largely changed their spending habits that almost stopped the functioning of multiple industries while demand for several others such as health equipment, food products and cleaning materials upsurged. Towering demand for these products caught companies unprepared and led to a supply crisis.

Mehtap Payne has joined Turkey's Guden Law Firm as its new Senior Legal Counsel and Head of Maritime Law.

AGA Partners and Avellum have announced that the two Ukrainian firms, which merged almost two years ago, will officially separate, continuing their relationship as an alliance.

In the European Commission’s January 8 Report on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in third countries, Ukraine was identified as a Priority 2 country. This category includes countries with systematic problems in the area of intellectual property protection and enforcement, causing significant harm to EU countries.

As of November 2019, certain RES producers have been intermittently forced to reduce their output or halt production of electrical energy altogether under the commands of Ukraine’s transmission system operator, NEC Ukrenergo. DTEK, along with several other large market players led the call for limitations. Many of the country’s RES producers have become alarmed.