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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.

The SEE Legal law firm alliance has announced the formal launch of two new practice groups, one dedicated to Employment and Immigration, headed by Kolcuoglu Demirkan Kocakli Counsel Maral Minasyan, and one dedicated to Intellectual Property, headed by Selih & Partnerji Partner Natasa Pipan Nahtigal.

The energy infrastructure in Kosovo has not undergone major change over the past few decades. Due to high reserves of lignite, 97% of Kosovo’s electricity generation comes from two aging coal power plants. Unfortunately, lignite-coal of the kind found in Kosovo is among the most polluting and least efficient sources of energy. Consequently, Kosovo’s infrastructure is outdated and a major source of air pollution.

“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.

Dentons has advised Enlight Renewable Energy on the construction and EUR 115 million financing of the 105 MW Selac wind farm in Kosovo. The EBRD provided EUR 57 million of the total amount, with Erste Group Bank and NLB Bank providing the remaining EUR 58 million, and with coverage provided by the German export credit agency Euler Hermes. The lenders were reportedly advised by White & Case.

Former Wolf Theiss Poland Co-Managing Partner Ron Given has joined Deloitte Legal as its CE Senior Legal Counsel, responsible for all of the firm’s offices in 19 Central and Eastern European countries.

“Kosovo’s parliament has recently adopted a new law that mainly affects private companies,” reports Artan Qerkini, Founding Partner at Sejdiu & Qerkini Law, who notes that one of the new law's provisions — a requirement that 40% of company board members be women — has already generated significant controversy.

The winners of the 2017 CEE Deal of the Year Awards were announced at the first ever CEE Legal Matters Deal of the Year Awards Banquet last night in Prague. The biggest smiles in the joyous and music-filled celebration of CEE lawyering, perhaps, were on the faces of Partners from Avellum and Sayenko Kharenko, which, along with White & Case and Latham & Watkins, won the award both for Ukrainian Deal of the Year and CEE Deal of the Year for their work on the 2017 Ukraine Eurobond Issue (a story initially reported by CEE Legal Matters on October 2, 2017).

Kosovo declared its independence on February 17, 2008, nine years after the 1999 conclusion of its conflict with Serbia, during which time it operated under the protection of the United Nation Mission in Kosovo. The post-war climate in the country was full of hopes for new beginnings, and in 2008 the newly sovereign state began the process of establishing effective and fair legislation, developing an independent economy, and building a protective environment for its citizens. 

“Kosovo has attractive legislation for new businesses,” says Taulant Hodaj, Managing Partner at Hodaj and Partners, “which ensures lots of flexibility for foreign investors to come and start operations in our market. But unfortunately, as in the rest of the Balkan region, also in Kosovo, when it comes to the application of these laws in the courts and other institutions, they don’t have a very effective implementation of the applicable laws.”

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