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“The talk about the entrance of two regional players – CMS and Schoenherr – onto the Macedonian market last year is still on everyone’s lips (among lawyers),” says Apostolska & Partners’ Founding Partner Emilija Apostolska-Temov in North Macedonia, who says that the presence of such law firms in the market will undoubtedly influence business, increasing both the quality of legal services and competition. “It also gives us a hint about investments coming in – such big law firms would not come without any plans,” she says. “They must know something that the rest of us will learn later. I think it will be a positive experience.”

“These are really exciting times in Croatia,” says Kallay & Partners Managing Partner Ivna Medic. On January 1, 2019, she says, the rule book of electronic communications in commercial court procedures was changed to provide the conditions for communicating in electronic form. Medic explains that the regulation represents something completely new for the Croatian legal system. “For the very first time we have the opportunity to communicate with courts electronically, and most definitely this will speed up court proceedings and reduce costs for the proceedings,” she says.

“There was a very big scandal few weeks ago that involved top Lithuanian judges getting detained in an anti-corruption crackdown,” says Metida Partner Erikas Saukalas, referring to the eight judges from the country’s Regional Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court who were arrested at the end of February. The arrests were apparently made, Saukalas reports, following the discovery that the judges had accepted bribes ranging from EUR 1000-100,000 in criminal, civil, and administrative cases. Saukalas describes the case as “a huge disappointment for our society.” 

“From the perspective of a finance lawyer, my general observation is that the biggest problem is of course the political issue,” says Herbert Smith Freehills Partner Olga Davydava, referring to the sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union. “The political situation really affects the legal market.”

“On the business side,” says Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Partner Friedrich Jergitsch, when asked what’s happening in Austria, "people are interested in artificial intelligence, data protection, and cyber-issues. These topics are always important to our clients.” Jergitsch says that data protection responsibilities and concerns “reach far beyond the GDPR.” He explains that “it’s an enormous subject in M&A, and M&A-related due diligence, because a lot of the M&A work involves clients purchasing data companies or cyber companies, and of course it’s a common post-M&A dispute topic, as well as a contractual topic, including in finance transactions.”

"One of Bulgaria’s biggest challenges, but simultaneously one of the biggest positive developments, is the country’s intention to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism," says CMS Partner Elitsa Ivanova. "This is basically the waiting area for the Eurozone and the EU banking union."

“Ukraine is a very vibrant place to be in, both for life and business,” says Redcliffe Partners Managing Partner Olexiy Soshenko. “In particular, after the Revolution of Dignity in 2014, there have been many changes and reforms.” He cites Ukraine’s policies on energy self-sustainability, currency control, upcoming elections, and extension of the land sale moratorium as particularly deserving of attention.

According to Oleg Efrim, the Managing Partner at Moldova’s Efrim Rosca Asociatii law firm, the primary topic of interest at the moment in the Moldovan legal community is the country’s newly modernized Civil Code which will become effective on March 1, 2019. According to Efrim, the new Code will be a significant upgrade to the existing law, which entered into force in 2003 as the country’s first following the fall of the Soviet Union. “It’s a substantial amendment,” Efrim reports, pointing out that the number of articles is increasing from the existing 1624 to 2671, and he says that "it is, indeed, a modernization of the Code.”

"Two major things are happening right now which are the focus of our practice: The Tech Industry and Chinese Investors,” says Ivan Nonkovic, Partner and independent attorney at law in cooperation with Karanovic & Partners in Belgrade. "Both things are happening all over the region,” he concedes, ”so not exclusively in Serbia, but they’re definitely significant here too."

We’re still in the aftermath of the general elections that occurred in October of 2018,” says Andrea Zubovic-Devedzic, Partner at CMS in Sarajevo, who describes the elections as “ the biggest topic in 2018.” According to Zubovic-Devedzic, “there was a lot of wait-and-see before the elections. The hope was the government would be formed quickly and things would pick up. But unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet, and we’re still waiting.”