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Tim Pfister, Managing Partner at Knoetzl in Vienna, is an American lawyer with over 35 years of experience. In addition to his management responsibilities at Knoetzl, Pfister acts as counsel, advising clients and colleagues on New York law matters and regarding conflicts in international transactions, cross-border financings, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, corporate crisis management, and corporate strategic planning. He moved to Austria in 2013 and was a founder of Knoetzl in 2016.  

On January 4, 2018 CEE Legal Matters reported that Schoenherr had advised BUWOG AG and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer had advised Vonovia SE on Vonovia’s voluntary public takeover bid of BUWOG. The takeover offer placed the enterprise value of BUWOG at around EUR 5.2 billion. We reached out to several of the individuals involved in the deal for information: Christian Herbst, Partner, Schoenherr and Thomas Zottl, Partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 

There are only a few days left until the GDPR comes into force on May 25, 2018. Despite having had a two-year grace period before the new regime becomes effective, companies all over the European Community and their advisors are struggling to meet that deadline. We at Dorda are as well, despite having introduced a nine-person GDPR implementation project team – which is relatively huge for a country the size of Austria.

Widely recognized as an entry point for investors seeking opportunities in Eastern Europe and as a hub for the region, Austria is home to a large number of regional General Counsel and Heads of Legal. We reached out to a number of them to get their perspectives on this critical gateway to CEE.

Unlike those of its neighbours to the East, Austria’s economy was allowed to operate free of communist interference, allowing the country to hit well above its weight, comparatively-speaking. Thus, although Austria is the 11th biggest country in CEE in population, with 8.7 million people, it has the third largest economy, behind only Russia and Poland. And these days, with the global financial crisis now firmly in the rearview mirror, the country is once again able to capitalize on its happy geographical positioning and historical relationship with the former members of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation is, according to the EU-hosted GDPR website, “the most important change in data privacy regulation in the past 20 years.” The Act, which was approved by the EU Parliament on April 14, 2016 and will become fully effective on May 25, 2018, was designed “to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens’ data privacy, and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy.”

Implementation of large-scale real estate development projects almost always requires the simultaneous development of new or upgrades to existing public infrastructure necessary for the unimpeded use of the main project. Back in the old days, real estate development projects suffered, from time to time, from slow public infrastructure development since the relevant public authorities either had no interest in or had no available funds to develop the missing infrastructure.

Public private partnerships and concessions are effective tools to allow governments to partner with the private sector to develop and finance key infrastructure projects. These forms of collaboration are particularly relevant in Russia, where infrastructure investment needs are estimated by the World Bank to be about USD 1 trillion.

In December 2017, CMS published the latest edition of its annual “Infrastructure Index” report, which compares the political, economic, and legal environments for investors in infrastructure in 40 countries and constitutes a guide to the world’s most attractive destinations for infrastructure investment. According to the report, the five most attractive destinations for infrastructure investment are the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

The plans to regulate public-private partnerships have been in the program of the Montenegrin Government for at least ten years now. Despite its central importance to both the public and private sectors, a specific legislative and institutional framework in the area of PPPs is still not in place. Instead, PPPs are regulated by laws from several sectors and by the Law on Concessions. The main authoritative bodies in charge of implementing PPP projects are the Privatization and Capital Investment Council and the Concession Commission.

The new Lithuanian Concessions Law came into force on January 1, 2018. With the new legislation, Lithuania has adopted European Parliament and Council Directive 2014/23/EU on the award of Concession Contracts, which establishes a balanced and flexible legal framework for the award of concessions and ensures effective and non-discriminatory access to the market for all economic operators. The new Lithuanian legislation aims to ensure transparency and fair competition in the development of infrastructure and the provision of services of general economic interest, as well as the attraction of national and EU-wide private investors to the public sector.

It’s been quite a wait, but the D4 Motorway PPP project should be coming to market in April. The project will involve the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of a 36 km stretch of motorway between Pribram and Pisek in the south west of the Czech Republic, with operation and maintenance of an adjacent 16 km of existing motorway.

Croatia stands among the highest ranked countries when it comes to the compliance of its PPP legislative framework with international standards. Reports issued by international institutions such as the EBRD and the EIB have praised Croatia for its elaborate legal framework, strong institutional capacities, transparent procurement practices, easy access to justice (including arbitration), and a range of security instruments facilitating financing.

Last year was a good year for the Bulgarian economy, which registered 3.6% GDP growth. The Bulgarian Government plans to further boost the economy in 2018, and initial projections vary from 3% to 4% growth. The main trigger for this will be the continuation of spending public funds on strategic infrastructure projects.

The constitutional and legislative structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is complex since it is composed of two entities – the Republic of Srpska (RS) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) – and Brcko District (BD) as a separate unit, and the legislation is adopted on the state level, entity level, and – in FBiH  – on the cantonal level. This means that in BiH as such there is no unified Law on PPP, but rather 12 laws on PPP. While the RS and BD adopted their PPP laws in 2013 and 2010, the FBiH drafted a Law on PPP in 2009 which remains in the adoption process. In addition, the cantons in the FBiH have their own set of PPP laws.

Austria is definitely lagging behind in terms of Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) penetration: According to recent data of the FTTH Council Europe, only one country worldwide has a worse penetration rate than Austria, while other sources suggest there are two countries below Austria. For this reason many initiatives have been implemented on municipal and provincial levels to provide Austrian households and undertakings with high-speed Internet access in parts of the country where a purely commercial assessment would not justify such investments. Obviously this is not yet enough.

The Ukrainian government has declared its intention to implement the success story of European countries in the sphere of public-private partnerships. In order to implement those ambitious plans the government has established a Project Office for PPP to work closely with international investors and lobby for relevant legislative improvements.

In The Corner Office we ask Managing Partners at law firms across the region important questions about their unique roles and responsibilities. The question this time around: What was your favorite course in law school, and why?

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