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Before being elected President of Ukraine last May, Volodymyr Zelensky had virtually no experience in public office. Despite his inexperience – or perhaps because of it – over 73% of the electorate concluded that the comedian and entertainer was the right man to replace Petro Poroshenko, the previous President, and now Zelensky finds himself, at 41, leading an entire nation.

In The Corner Office we ask Managing Partners across Central and Eastern Europe about their unique roles and responsibilities. The question this time around: What major initiative or new plan does your office (or firm) plan – if any – for 2020?

Climate change-related risks have climbed to the top of the agenda of various stakeholders across the globe: governments, international organizations, NGOs, businesses, and ordinary citizens. The Global Risk Report 2020, presented this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, demonstrates that climate-related risks – including extreme weather, climate action failure, natural disasters, biodiversity loss, and human-made environmental disasters – are among the top five long-term risks over the next ten years. Most notably, according to survey respondents, the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation is this year’s number one long-term risk by impact. The report underscores that, in the 2020s, “concerted action is required not only to reduce emissions but also to develop credible adaptation strategies, including climate-proofing infrastructure, closing the insurance protection gap, and scaling up public and private adaptation finance.”

When it comes to resolving disputes between contracting parties, the threat, “I’ll see you in court!” often is the first thing to cross peoples’ minds. This call to arms is still common, despite the availability now of different dispute resolution methods, such as arbitration.

Prorogation clauses are forum-selection clauses in contracts between entrepreneurs, who agree in writing on the local jurisdiction of a first-instance court for disputes arising out of or in connection with their business matter, unless the law states otherwise and prescribes an exclusive jurisdiction. It is possible to enter into a separate prorogation agreement instead of a contractual clause with the same effect.

The “order for payment procedure” was initially introduced in Bulgaria with the adoption of the new Civil Procedural Code in 2007 as an accelerated enforcement procedure for debt collection. This procedure provides creditors with a relatively fast and easy way to obtain an enforcement order against debtors. In general, the order for payment procedure is like a closed administrative procedure and requires only the submission of a standard application form and payment of a state fee of 2% of the amount claimed.

Attendees to the 2019 CEELM Winter Party were cornered, over the course of the evening, and asked, without warning or an opportunity to prepare, what achievement over the past 12 months they were proudest of.

Against a backdrop of global uncertainty fuelled by Brexit, a US-China trade war, and a weakening German economy, Central and Eastern Europe has proven itself economically resilient in the face of a challenging year. Led by Hungary, Poland, and Romania – all of which reported more than 4% GDPs growth – many emerging European countries have comfortably outshone the sluggish economies of Western Europe. It is, therefore, unsurprising that foreign investors flocked to the region in 2019 in search of healthy returns.

If the Western Balkan countries are in your business spotlight, you must have heard about the “Little Schengen” project that was discussed between the governments of Albania, Serbia, and North Macedonia, and the signing of the consequent Declaration on Establishment of Free Movement of People, Goods and Services on October 10, 2019 between the leaders of these countries (“Little Schengen Declaration”). Although it may be argued that the “Little Schengen” project comes as an answer to the fact that the “Big Schengen” is still out of the reach for these Balkan countries, closer economic cooperation between the Western Balkan countries is a trend that’s being going on for a while. In particular, four months prior to the signing of the Little Schengen Declaration, North Macedonia and Serbia signed an agreement to establish joint controls at the border crossing point of the road between North Macedonia and Serbia (the “Bilateral Agreement”).

The words which probably best describe trends in the field of logistics and transportation are “information connectivity” and “automatization.” The aim of both is the same – to increase efficiency and to achieve effective control of time, costs, quality of services, etc.  In Croatia, as elsewhere, these concepts have resulted in some new legal challenges.

The automobile part-and-component-production sector’s expansion in recent years has become a motor of the Bulgarian industry and economy. Since the Japanese company Yazaki’s investment some 15 years ago, and following Bulgaria’s EU accession in 2007 – and thanks to the common European market and the globalization of car production – Bulgarian car part manufacturers have successfully integrated into European and international supply chains as suppliers and subcontractors for global brands such as BMW, Mercedes, Renault, Nissan, Audi, Ford, Porsche, and Tesla. Nowadays, 80% of all cars have parts produced in Bulgaria. In some specific segments, Bulgarian manufacturers have become absolute market leaders - for example, 90% of the airbag sensors in all European cars are produced in Bulgaria.

Slovakia is essentially a global superpower in the per-capita production of cars, producing more new cars per capita than any other country in the world. According to statistical data from 2018, four global car manufacturers located in Slovakia – Volkswagen Slovakia, Kia Motors Slovakia, PSA Group Slovakia, and Jaguar Land Rover – produced more than a million cars. The Slovak Automotive Industry Association reports that over 1.08 million cars were manufactured in Slovakia in 2018. It will be interesting to see whether this number will be surpassed given the recent challenges and potential slowdown in the automotive industry.

The new Law of Ukraine “On Concession” (the “2019 Concession Law”) became effective on October 19, 2019, following several years of discussion. As the previous concession law (which was adopted in 1999) provided outdated and unenforceable regulations and was inconsistent with other laws regulating concessions and public-private partnerships in Ukraine, no significant concession projects had been developed in Ukraine for more than 20 years. The 2019 Concession Law provides a chance for Ukraine to overcome legal barriers to the development of concession projects and attract much needed investment into the country’s infrastructure.

Due to the complex constitutional structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina (composed as it is of two entities, Republika Srpska (RS) and Federation of BiH (FBiH), and the Brcko District), logistics, transportation, and shipping matters are regulated on the state level, entity level, and – in FBiH – cantonal administrative level.

With a total stock of over 800,000 square meters of office space and several large-scale office projects underway, Belgrade aims to further strengthen its position as a top choice for headquarters of investors operating in Serbia and SEE.

CMS at a Glance

CMS Sofia is a full-service law firm, the largest international law firm in Bulgaria and one of the largest providers of legal services in the local market as a whole. The breadth and depth of our practice means that our lawyers are specialised, with a level of specialisation that few of our competitors can match.

CMS Sofia is the Bulgarian branch of CMS, a top ten global legal and tax services provider with over 5000 lawyers in 43 countries and 78 offices across the world.

CMS entered the Bulgarian market as one of the first internationally active law firms in 2005 and is now among the most respected legal advisors in the country. We have 7 partners, 4 counsel and over 30 lawyers in our office in Sofia.

Our legal experts, who are rooted in Bulgaria’s local culture, can also draw on years of experience in foreign countries and are at home in several legal systems at once. We know the particularities of the local market just as well as the needs of our clients and combine both to achieve optimum solutions. Our lawyers are Bulgarian qualified and we also have English qualified experts – all of them regularly working on cross-border mandates.

In our work, we focus on M&A, Energy, Projects and Construction, Banking and Finance, Real Estate, Media, IP and IT law, Tax, Employment law, Competition, Procurement and any kind of Dispute resolution, including arbitration and mediation. What’s more, we also take care of the entire legal management of our clients’ projects.

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