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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.” 

Slovakia’s political life is currently marked by the government's internal struggles, says Martin Magal, Managing Partner at Allen & Overy Bratislava. “We have a fairly inept coalition government and our politicians are much more involved in fighting among each other than fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“There is a lot going on at the moment, politics-wise,” says Rojs, Peljhan, Prelesnik & Partners Partner Ana Grabnar. “One of the coalition parties left the coalition and joined opposition parties in filing for a no-confidence vote for the government – that took place this week.”  The opposition did not gather the necessary majority; “surprisingly it gathered even fewer votes than predicted,” she says.

“The hot topic in Hungary right now is the January 2021 amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure” says Komor Hennel Attorneys Managing Partner Ildiko Komor Hennel. “The act passed in the 1950s had one previous major overhaul back in 2017,” she says, adding that the recent amendments were necessitated by “modern times, technological updates, procedural effectiveness and business reality – just imagine not being able to file documents electronically!”

“Austria has learned in the last year that every choice needs to be evaluated and reevaluated,” says Klaus Pfeiffer, Partner at Weber & Co. in Vienna. “Especially when it comes to making decisions about the pandemic, facts on which assumptions are based can change rapidly.” Having learned this lesson, he says, the Austrian government has “put itself in a good position to be flexible and able to constantly reassess its position – which will lead to better responses to the current crisis and future challenges.”

The most notable recent political event in the Czech Republic was the October 2020 regional election, says Jaroslav Havel, Managing Partner at Havel & Partners. However, Havel is quick to point out that, no matter who has been in office in the last ten years, politicians have not had a major impact on business in the Czech Republic. A more tangible effect of the election, he says, is that his former partner, Jan Holasek, who left the former Havel & Holasek law firm six years ago, has become a member of the Czech Senate.

“Currently, the main debate in Latvia is about when business will get back to normal and whether companies will be compensated for their lockdown-caused losses,” says Janis Zelmenis, Managing Partner at BDO Latvia, sighing that he expects the burden to eventually fall on the taxpayers’ shoulders.

“Finally, there has been some positive movement on the political scene,” says Gladei & Partners Managing Partner Roger Gladei, referring to Moldova’s Presidential elections last November. “President Maia Sandu’s win marked the beginning of a new political era for Moldova,” he says. “At least that’s the sentiment in the streets.” As the presidency is expected to make a dramatic 180 degree turn towards the West, President Sandu presents a strong contrast to the previous, more Russia-friendly administration.

“The political situation in Austria is as stable as it ever was,” says Eisenberger & Herzog Partner Marco Steiner. “Everybody’s eyes are pointed towards the government’s handling of the crisis, especially given that we are right now in a third lockdown. However, the government will need to get right on with its reform agenda as soon as the crisis begins to die down.”

It is customary in Lithuania’s political system for the government to alternate between parties on the opposite sides of the political spectrum with every two election cycles, says Andrius Iskauskas, Partner at Wint. And so, he notes, “right wing and liberal parties came to power and replaced the leftist parties after the elections in late October 2020.” Nonetheless, he points out, in parliament, curiously enough, a relatively new very liberal party formed a coalition with a more traditional right wing party.

"The majority of us will be more than happy to see 2020 behind us,” laughs Stefana Tsekova, Local Partner at Schoenherr Sofia. “But luckily for us at Schoenherr, it was a good year, especially for big ticket deals. We advised on the Vivacom deal, valued at 1.3 billion euros, making it the biggest deal ever on the Bulgarian market. It started before the Covid crisis hit, but luckily it continued. We actually advised on another big transaction on the energy sector as well — the acquisition by Enery Development of the biggest photovoltaic plant operational in Bulgaria, with 50 MW installed capacity [as reported by CEE Legal Matters on September 15, 2020]. So in terms of deals we were lucky.”

"The most important development in Montenegro is the recent change in government,” says Marko Ivkovic, Senior Lawyer at the Prelevic Law Firm in Podgorica, referring to the August 2020 victory of opposition parties and the fall from power of the DPS party, which had ruled the country since the introduction of the multi-party system in 1990.

“Since the spring of 2019 we have had a new parliament and government,” says Kadri Kallas, Partner at TGS Baltic in Estonia. “Much like in a number of countries around the world we have a populist party in our government. However, the party which had most votes was unable to form the government, so the second-ranked party, along with two others, formed it instead.” 

Despite North Macedonia’s agreement to adopt its current name and its joining of NATO in March 2020, the country's EU accession process has recently taken a hit, says Polenak Managing Partner Kristijan Polenak. “Notwithstanding recognition received from the entire international community, one EU member country vetoed the start of the negotiations,” says Polenak, referring to Bulgaria’s opposition to moving forward with consideration of North Macedonia’s EU accession. This led to a “decline of internal support for EU membership, caused by disappointment with the inconsistent application of European values. This opposition in early December strengthened the political streams opposing our EU membership.” 

“I can’t not mention Covid – it’s still making the entire situation quite difficult,” says Dorda Managing Partner Axel Anderl, when asked what’s happening in Austria “The current coalition between the Greens and the Conservatives is facing a lot of challenges.”