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“The pandemic has overwritten any expectations we had at the end of 2019,” says Schoenherr Budapest Partner Gergely Szaloki. “We were very optimistic, and the market was booming, but the pandemic changed many things.” He underlines the frequent switch to a home-office working environment as being a particular source of change for the real estate market. “Not only the office spaces,” he says, “but I can imagine that flats will also be designed in a way so that it’s possible to establish at least a working corner at home.”

Draft legislation, including a draft law to create a Commercial Court and a draft Civil Code, is at the top of the agenda for lawyers in Kosovo, according to Ramaj, Palushi, Hajdari & Salihu Partner Mentor Hajdaraj, who also points to several ongoing foreign investment disputes of significance to the country's overall FDI strategy.

Two recent ground-breaking court decisions are the main topics of conversation between lawyers in Romania, according to Vertis Legal Partner Grigore Pop – one involving how criminal courts should operate going forward and one involving another lawyer that raises "serious concerns over the legal profession as a whole."

“The third wave of the pandemic, and unfortunately the most severe, has dominated the developments of the past month in Hungary,” says SBGK Partner Peter Lukacsi. He says that severe restrictions have been imposed in the country to combat the uptick in the numbers of newly infected people, including the closings of lower grade schools and kindergartens. “Courts have been closed as well,” he says, “and no personal hearings have been held in both civil and commercial matters since March 8.”

“Covid is still a very hot topic in Slovenia, I’m afraid,” reports ODI Partner Suzana Boncina Jamsek. “The vaccination efforts have somewhat stalled, especially with some problems that Europe seems to have been having with the AstraZeneca vaccine, and this is affecting the market and our daily work.” Boncina Jamsek says that the country still has some lockdown measures in place, but that these change “almost on a weekly basis,” and are not very strict at the moment. “Still, business meetings are rarely taking place in person and this is still a hurdle for all of us,” she says.

According to Rafal Rapala, Senior Partner at Kochanski & Partners, recent developments of interest in the Polish economy include, among other things, several investments by the state-owned Orlen oil company in several regional daily newspapers. This is another step in expanding the company’s portfolio beyond traditional fuel production and distribution, following its 2020 acquisition of Ruch, one of Poland's biggest kiosk and press distributing companies.

In this time of economic distress, many countries have suffered. Yet, reports Milos Gledovic, Partner at Samardzic, Oreski & Grbovic, Serbia has proven resilient. “The pandemic has not affected the number of transactions in our market, except in the industries directly affected by anti-COVID measures,” Gledovic says, describing the overall economic situation in Serbia as stable.

The current political situation in Belarus remains strained, according to Maksim Salahub, Partner at Sorainen in Minsk. Salahub reports that President Lukashenko held an “All-Belarusian Assembly” between February 11 and 12 – an event Salahub describes as “politically sterile.” According to him, “even though the event was supposed to seem all-Belarusian, the participants were carefully selected by the authorities so that the event would instead be attended by Lukashenko loyalists.” Nonetheless, Salahub says, many followed the event closely, hoping that some constructive ideas would be voiced and de-escalation measures proposed. Unfortunately, in Salahub’s opinion, the event only indicated that repression against the pro-reform groups will continue and that the same economic course will be followed as before.

“It’s very complicated at this moment, with most people changing their mind very often,” says Irena Georgieva, Managing Partner of PPG Lawyers in Sofia, about the situation in Bulgaria. “Everybody is focused on their personal Covid-19-related problems and it’s hard to adequately measure what the community really thinks about the government, as somehow all political decisions are inextricably linked with pandemic issues.” 

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