“The Russian Government has been very active in addressing concerns of business regarding inadequate regulatory control that has been increasing over last years,” says Andrey Ryabinin, Partner at Integrites in Moscow. “Several declarations have been made in this respect. As part of the reform known as 'regulatory guillotine' the Government is expected to eliminate in 2020-2021 several thousand outdated and excessive regulations in various industries regarding technical standards and requirements in business practice, most of which date back all the way to the Soviet times.”
“The end of 2019 has marked the end of the Sandu Cabinet — led by former Prime Minister Maia Sandu — and the takeover of the Prime Minister position by Ion Chicu,” says Daniel Cobzac, Managing Partner at Cobzac & Partners in Chisinau. “The Socialist Party now has its largest representation ever, and it was able to appoint one of their own to the Prime Minister’s position.”
"The economy in Belarus has been stable for the past few years, but recently has been heavily affected by both the negative impacts of the coronavirus and a tight situation with Russia,” says Sergei Makarchuk, Partner at Cerha Hempel in Minsk. “Tensions between the two countries have really taken their toll over the past six months and a few conflicts have taken place, in most cases related to the supply of oil.”
Although the coronavirus has effected the Baltics like everyone else, Sorainen Country Managing Partner for Lithuania Tomas Kontautas says, it hasn’t, at least in the short term, resulted in any slow down in work, and he reports that commercial lawyers in Lithuania are “not only busy – but much busier than normal” in the week and a half since the country’s borders were closed on March 16, 2020. “There’s been a lot of activity on hotlines, and lots of questions for law firms,” he reports, “both in contract performance and employment matters, and in many other areas as well.”
“The Parliament was disbanded in February and we’re reaching peak election campaign time,“ begins Gjorgji Georgievski, Partner at ODI Law in North Macedonia. “Election day is April 12, and the heat is on.“ Georgievski believes that the election between the ruling Social Democrats and the right-wing opposition VMRO-DPMNE party is going be tight.
“The third year a Government is in power is when it usually feels the most confident to work on reforms,” says Kostadin Sirleshtov, Managing Partner at CMS in Sofia.” At the moment the Bulgarian Government is stable and active in various sectors, considering the very small possibility of a new election this year.”
There's a high level of activity in the Greek energy sector, says Dimitris Assimakis, Partner at Norton Rose Fulbright in Athens. “Renewables are going to be huge in the near future,” he says, “mostly due to the fact that Greek authorities have put forward an ambitious plan to have the share of renewables in the final gross electricity consumption at 60% by 2030.“ According to Assimakis this doubling of the current 29% share will require “a very aggressive investment program – mostly from the private sector.”
”The most important things coming up in Croatia are the HDZ's intra-party elections,” says Damir Topic, Senior Partner at Divjak Topic Bahtijarevic in Zagreb, of the ruling party. “Mid-March will see these elections concluded and we’ll see which direction the party will take.“ Former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, a member of HDZ, lost her bid for re-election in December, 2019 and stepped down on February 18 of this year According to Topic, “the right-wing of the party argues this is due to Grabar-Kitarovic taking a mellow stance (which apparently stems from the 'pro-liberal' orientation of current party’s leaders), which lost her the support of some of the more right-wing parts of the electorate.“
According to Glatzova & Co. Partner Veronika Pazmanyova, “surprisingly, just three days before the February 29 election the Slovak parliament approved a 13th pension wage and rejected the Istanbul Treaty.” According to her, “despite this clear political corruption, the ruling party, SMER, was not able to secure victory and were beaten by the anticorruption Ordinary People party led by Igor Matovic, who will presumably be the new Slovak Prime Minister.” Matovic received 25% of the votes, despite having only around 5% support in the autumn polls, Pazmanyova reports.
“Without question,” says Filips Klavins, Senior Partner at Ellex Klavins in Riga, “the biggest news was that last week [Friday, February 21] the Financial Action Task Force decided not to put Latvia on its Gray money-laundering List.” Latvia has been under monitoring by Moneyval and the FATF for potentially allowing space for conducting money laundering in Latvia. “The countries that find themselves on the Gray List are the likes of North Korea,” Klavins says. “Not the company you’d want to find yourself in.” Still, he smiles, “the country has been working really hard to avoid that, and we’ve done it.”
“Things are moving in cycles [in Montenegro], as in most parts of the Balkans,“ says Partner Sasa Vujacic of Vujacic Law Offices. “This is an election year in Montenegro and that will be reflected on the business sector for sure, as we approach election day.“ Vujacic reports that the election date “should be no later than October of this year“ and says that, although more political influence will be felt in all sectors of business as it approaches, “not a lot of changes in Montenegro's political structure are to be expected."
“We had an interesting turn of events last week as our Prime Minister stepped down,” says Mia Kalas, Partner at Selih & Partnerji in Slovenia. “Previously, we had an ambitious government which began the tax reform and also had ambitious plans for a healthcare reform, but now this will very much slow down.”
“Politics in Czech Republic is currently stable, even though we have several ongoing issues,” says Jiri Cerny, Partner at Peterka Partners in the Czech Republic. “The biggest controversy involves President Milos Zeman’s close relations with China. They promised a large amount of investment, but this has never been fulfilled, and that has led to some scrutiny. Apart from that, we hadn’t had any major political issues recently.”
“Politically, we’re seeing a continuation of last year – even though the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina still has no government, at least the Bosnian Council of Ministers got formed,“ Says Olodar Prebanic, Partner at Prebanic & Jusufbasic-Goloman in Sarajevo. “This is a reflection of the situation in the entire country – the legislative pipeline is frozen, and there are no significant acts being passed on a Federal level."