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The sixth package of European Union sanctions imposed on Russia is a widely discussed topic, yet the overall levels of preparedness to adopt the associated energy import ban varies from one country to another. Indeed, with Russian oil and gas exports being such a dominant source of energy for a number of European countries, it remains to be seen how all of them adapt to the change. To gain insight into how certain EU member states and non-EU countries are (likely) to fare in the immediate wake of the ban, we reached out to legal professionals from Turkey, Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Moldova.

Writing an editorial proved to be equally as challenging as operating in the CEE legal market. For the record, I will confine my experiences mostly to the region of the Western Balkans. In hindsight, the past year(s) were something of a specialty, even by our own criteria and relative to our extensive experience. But let’s start from the beginning…

Between sustainability-linked loans and, more recently, green bonds, the finance world has been one of the early adopters and promoters of the ESG movement. We spoke with CMS Partners Ana Radnev, Cristina Reichmann, Ihor Olekhov, and Rafal Zakrzewski to check in on the status of ESG in this crucial sector.

ODI Law Partner Gjorgji Georgievski, EY Law North Macedonia Manager Jana Nikodinovska, CMS Partner Marija Filipovska, Popovski & Partners Partner Ognen Martinov, and Lalicic & Boskoski Partner Vedran Lalicic talk about what practices have been keeping their firms busy and their outlook.

In a 2020 CEE Legal Matters article, Karanovic & Partners Partner Veton Qoku wrote that “in 2016 the Republic of North Macedonia made changes to its Law on the Control of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, defining the terms ‘hemp,’ ‘hemp seed oil,’ and ‘cannabis/hemp oil’ for the first time as well as regulating the procedure for cultivation and production of hemp.” CEELM spoke with Qoku to check in on the development of this young sector in the country.

With the fast-paced development of applications in nearly every sector of the service industry and the advent of virtual services, Romania witnessed a rise in the number of people employed in the gig economy. CEE Legal Matters sat down with DLA Piper Head of Employment Monica Georgiadis and Schoenherr Head of Employment Mara Moga-Paler in Romania to discuss the legislative framework regulating gig workers, the labor risks and challenges they face, and the ways in which these might be addressed.

By most counts, 2021 was a successful year for the Romanian M&A market. Tuca Zbarcea & Asociatii Deputy Managing Partner Stefan Damian, Nestor Nestor Diculescu Kingston Petersen Partner Gabriela Cacerea, Dentons Managing Partner Perry Zizzi, and Wolf Theiss M&A Partner Ileana Glodeanu have many reasons to believe 2022 could be a good year as well, but also quite a few to expect a slowdown in activity.

A quick look at the CEE Legal Matters Index 2021 reveals a considerable number of public procurement (PP) disputes in the Romanian healthcare sector. We spoke with Popovici Nitu Stoica & Asociatii Partner Ramona Pentilescu, who was involved in challenging several such projects, to learn more about the trend.

Did you just glaze over the headline without even registering it? I would have. Of the 30 press releases that last hit my inbox, 26 included – in either the opening paragraph or the last one describing the emitting firm – the phrase “leading law firm.” Indeed, it is such a common trope in the industry that I barely even register it when a firm self-identifies as such.

While the deal looked almost impossible at first, with European Commission officials hawkish about its competition implications, PKN Orlen’s acquisition of Grupa Lotos eventually came to pass. For the two Polish energy leviathans the path towards unification was not an easy one, but that goal became a lot nearer following the EC’s 2020 approval. To learn more about the merger and how it managed to beat the odds we spoke to SMM Legal Managing Partner Maciej Mataczynski and Rymarz Zdort Managing Partner Pawel Rymarz.

In 2021 the Slovakian legal framework was set to be updated with a new FDI screening mechanism, echoing the wave of similar legislative updates throughout the European Union. However, after almost a full year, the proposed draft act has not yet come to pass. CEE Legal Matters spoke with Ruzicka and Partners Banking & Finance Partner Jan Hanko about the process, the draft itself, and its potential consequences on the Slovakian market.

Entering into force on February 19, 2021, the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility aimed, according to the European Commission, “to mitigate the economic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic and make European economies and societies more sustainable, resilient, and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions.” CEE Legal Matters spoke with lawyers from Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, and Romania to learn what each country focused on, with its Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP), and what difficulties lie ahead, now that these plans have been submitted to the EC.

As legal professionals and human beings with empathy, we keep reflecting on recent developments in Ukraine. Our heart goes out to our fellow people, and we trust that history will show us again: an imagined order cannot be sustained by violence. “You can do many things with bayonets, but it is rather uncomfortable to sit on them,” Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord insightfully pointed out. I’d like to believe that violent actions in Ukraine will come to an end or will have already ended by the time of the publication of this issue. Will, however, the impact of this war simultaneously also come to an end? As a result, how will the legal practice in CEE evolve and what developments should we expect?

In the past few years, Hungary has witnessed accelerated merger trends in the fields of TMT, healthcare, and energy, among others. We reached out to several competition lawyers and spoke about Hungarian merger control regulations and the role of the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA).

With the world slowly reaching what many scientists label “a point of no return” for climate change, countries worldwide are doing their best to combat environmental damage. To that end, the European Union has developed climate and energy targets for the upcoming decade, stating that it is “vital that we direct investments towards sustainable projects and activities.”

Energy prices have been a salient issue in CEE for the past year. Part 1 of this article covered just how high the energy prices had climbed in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, and Turkey, the impact of those prices on people, businesses, and governments, as well as the reasons why some countries fared better than others. Then Russia’s war against Ukraine changed everything, making a new energy pricing normal seem more distant than ever. In Part 2 we look at what energy experts believe could alleviate the situation and whether the war has impacted those plans.

CEE Legal Matters spoke with CMS Partners Alexander Rakosi, Horea Popescu, Philipp Mark, and Tetyana Dovgan about the impact the rise of ESG is having on the M&A landscape.

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