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This page is dedicated to keeping readers informed of the latest news and thought leadership articles from law firms across the globe.

If your firm wishes to publish press releases or articles, please contact Shehab Khurshid on +44 (0) 207 396 5689 or shehab.khurshid@legalease.co.uk

 

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Karanovic & Partners joins Ius Laboris

December 2018 - Employment. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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We are proud to announce that Karanovic & Partners has joined Ius Laboris, the world's premier global network of human resources law firms. The Employment practice of Karanovic & Partners in Serbia joined this prestigious organisation to reinforce its international HR advisory services for domestic and international companies.

"The employment practice of Karanovic & Partners has been advising multinational companies, international organisations and diplomatic missions on the Serbian market for over a decade and joining a global employment law alliance is an important step for us in strengthening the multi-jurisdictional and HR law integrated consultancy approach for our clients." stated Milena Jakšić Papac, Head of Employment Practice Group, of Karanovic & Partners.

Dragan Karanović, a Founding Partner of Karanovic & Partners, commented: "We prepare our lawyers to meet the challenges of increasing pressures in their practice development, as we have been managing some of the largest cases on the market and in the region. The exposure that our employment law experts have through the global Ius Laboris alliance – in terms of know-how, co-operation, global projects and exposure, will have a great impact on the new labour law services offering of our employment law practice."

Sam Everatt, Executive Director of the global employment law alliance Ius Laboris, added: "The new affiliation is part of the alliance's strategy of strengthening the global footprint in key regions and we are very pleased to welcome Milena and her employment practice team in the Alliance. We have worked with Milena's team on many multinational projects advising on all aspects of employment and labour law and look forward to providing our clients with a stronger presence in Southeast Europe. Milena is also President of the HR committee of the Foreign Investors Council in Serbia and we are sure she will have a leading role in the alliance as well."

Ius Laboris is the world's largest, integrated alliance of human resources and pensions law firms. It provides clients with highly specialized advice and support worldwide, as well as access to over 1,400 of the world's best human resources law practitioners, based in more than 160 cities in over 50 countries.

Karanovic & Partners: The 13th Traditional Conference on Competition Law and Data Protection

December 2018 - EU & Competition. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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On 28 November 2018, Karanovic & Partners, together with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, held the Competition and Data Protection conference at the Hilton Belgrade hotel. This traditional yearly conference – now in its' 13th year, gathered more than 120 experts from the business and legal community, as well as key regulators and stakeholders, to discuss the most important current issues in the fields of competition law and data protection.

The event was also the launch of the 12th edition of Karanovic & Partners' annual publication - Focus on Competition, featuring the latest updates and developments from the local, regional, European and global practice of competition law.

The conference was divided into three parts – the welcome and opening speeches, followed by two panel discussions.

The Importance of the Rule of Law and Deeper Specialization in Different Areas of Law

Mr. Rastko Petaković, the Managing Partner at Karanovic & Partners, welcomed the guests and stated that a broader and deeper understanding of all of the related areas of law, including competition and data protection, is a necessity.

"The complexity of these areas requires daily immersion – both in the case of competition law and data protection. In turn, this leads to a better understanding of our clients' needs, said Mr. Petaković.

His Excellency, Mr. Pertti Juhani Ikonen, the Ambassador of Finland to Serbia, officially opened the conference stating that one of the reasons why Nordic countries are prosperous is that they almost always play on the same field and share the same values. "This is due to the rule of law and good governance", the Finnish Ambassador said.

Competition and the Welfare of Citizens

The President of the Serbian Commission for the Protection of Competition, Mr. Miloje Obradović, in his speech stated that the Serbian Competition Commission traditionally supports this conference. He also talked about the state of competition in Serbia and the Commission's work over the past year, pointing out that the institution's goal is market competitiveness.

"The contribution of an efficient protection of competition to the economic growth and welfare of Serbian citizens is a challenge, but the Commission is very well aware of its competences in that sense", Mr. Obradović said.

The Assistant Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications of the Republic of Serbia, Mr. Jovan Stojić, welcomed the participants on behalf of the Vice-President of the Government and the Minister of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications.

Mr. Stojić, also being the President of the Working Group for the Preparation of the new Competition Law, specifically talked about the preparations for the new law. He highlighted that "the working group in charge of drafting the law is very heterogeneous, adequately bringing together professionals from the competent ministries and state authorities, but also representatives of the relevant stakeholders' associations".

Competition and Economy – Serbian and European Perspectives

The first panel, titled "Competition Law and Economy: the Serbian and European perspectives" was moderated by  Mr. Bojan Vučković, Partner ⃰ at Karanovic & Partners' Competition department. The panellists included: Mr. Marko Obradović, Member of the Council of the Serbian Commission for the Protection of Competition; Ms. Maria Dreher, Counsel at the multinational law firm  Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Mr. Akos Reger, founder of the competition economics consultancy firm Allegro Consulting, Brussels; and, Ms. Adrijana Despotović, Head of Legal at Knjaz Miloš.

The panellists talked about the importance of cross-border communication and coordination between legal and economic advisors or national competition authorities; economic analysis and its impact on the shaping of antitrust or private enforcement cases; innovations and improvements of detection tools and actions used by competition authorities; as well as the importance of competition and regulatory compliance.

Data Protection and GDPR

The second panel, titled "The Protection of Personal Data: Compliance with GDPR", was moderated by Mr. Goran Radošević, Partner ⃰ at Karanovic & Partners' Commercial department. The panellists included: Ms. Nevena Ružić, Assistant General Secretary and the Head of the Sector for Harmonization of the Office of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection; Ms. Marijana Poznan, Head of Legal at Fresenius Medical CareMs. Sanja Spasenović, Senior Associate ⃰ at Karanovic & Partners; and, Mr. Kevin Rihtar, Associate at Karanovic & Partners.

The discussion focused on the new Serbian Data Protection Law, which is to become applicable in August 2019, as well as the experiences, from the perspective of Slovenia, in the implementation of the GDPR. The panellists discussed the practical and somewhat challenging implications of the application of the new data protection regulations.

⃰ Independent attorney at law in cooperation with Karanović & Nikolić.

Serbia Enacts a New Data Protection Law

November 2018 - Corporate & Commercial. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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In light of the new EU data protection scheme, shaped by the GDPR, Serbia has enacted a new Data Protection Law on 9 November 2018, with its' applicability postponed for 21 August 2019. The new law was long-awaited: it has been 10 years since the existing law was passed, which was even at that moment already outdated (e.g. it recognized only consent in the written form and almost completely restricted data transfers to non-European countries).

The new law presents a copy of the GDPR to a large extent – perhaps too large, as the critics of the new law (including the Serbian Data Protection Authority, "DPA") argued that the implementation of the GDPR was performed badly, without the much needed harmonization with the Serbian legal framework. In addition, the GDPR's recitals (all 173 of them) were not copied or otherwise implemented in the new law, potentially creating a number of issues in its future interpretation. The new law also failed to regulate certain important data protection aspects, such as video surveillance, which are regulated in the EU via other community and national pieces of legislation. 

That being said, the new law undoubtedly marks a revolution in the way personal data should be handled in Serbia, similarly to what GDPR did for the EU - and perhaps even more so, since the EU's previous data protection framework was far less outdated then in the case of Serbia. It is rightfully expected to result in an extensive range of adjustment activities performed by Serbian companies, not just legal but also technical and organizational ones, in order to prepare for the comprehensive changes that will be introduced in nine months.

Some of the most important changes are summarised below.

The scope of the new law

The new law will not apply only to the processing of data carried out by Serbian controllers and processors, but also by the ones based outside of Serbia whose processing activities relate to the offering of goods or services (even for free) to or monitoring the behaviour of Serbian data subjects within Serbia. For example, a company outside of Serbia targeting consumers in Serbia will be subject to the new law, which was not the case so far. As a result, a number of these controllers and processors will need to appoint their representatives in Serbia, to be addressed by the DPA and the data subjects on all issues related to processing.

 Data processing consent: new forms and stricter requirements

As opposed to the existing law, which recognizes only hand-signed consent in the written form - creating significant issues in the digital age, the new law explicitly introduces other forms as well, such as online and oral consent, or consent by other clear affirmative action, provided that the controller is able to demonstrate that the data subject has indeed consented.

On the other hand, the conditions for obtaining consent have become much stricter – it must be freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous. For example, there is a presumption that consent will not be valid unless separate consents are obtained for different processing operations, where appropriate, and the request for consent - when presented in a written document, must be clearly distinguishable from all other matters, using clear and plain language - i.e. catch-all clauses will not be valid. In addition, consent will not be considered freely given if the performance of a contract is conditional on the consent to the processing of personal data that is not necessary for its performance.

Consent is not the only legal ground for data processing – others exist as well, such as the performance of the contract, compliance with legal obligations or processing necessary for legitimate interests, and will in fact be used much more often than consent.

New and expanded data subjects' rights 

The new law significantly expands the existing right of individuals to receive information about the processing of and access to their personal data. Data controllers must provide transparent information to data subjects in a more comprehensive manner, and in particular must inform data subjects of certain rights - such as the ability to withdraw consent, and the period for which the data will be stored. The information needs to be provided in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible way, using clear and plain language. However, this will be hard to achieve given the fact that the elements that need to be included in the information are quite excessive, which should be carefully addressed by the companies when analysing and updating their existing information notices.

In addition, the new law introduces a new right to data portability, and provides additional details concerning the erasure of personal data. The right to data portability gives an individual the right to demand that the controller provides him with his personal data, or to transmit them directly to another controller, in a machine readable format, if the relevant processing was automatic and based on consent or the fulfilment of a contract. The right to erasure binds the controller to erase the data without undue delay upon the individual's request if the personal data is no longer necessary for the purpose of processing, if there is no legal basis for processing - including cases where consent has been withdrawn, or if the data is otherwise processed contrary to the law, and even requires that the controller uses reasonable measures to notify other controllers processing the same data about the received erasure request.

Removal of the database registration obligation

One of the important novelties under the new law is the removal of the existing obligation to register personal databases with the DPA, which was mostly ignored so far in Serbia. Under the new law, controllers and processors will only be required to internally maintain the database records and, in certain cases, even that obligation will not apply to companies with up to 250 employees. The maintenance of the Central Register of Databases, established under the existing law, has even been terminated with immediate effect by the new law.

Data Protection Officer

The controllers and processors will be required to designate a data protection officer ("DPO"), whose primary tasks will be to ensure compliance with the data processing legislation and to communicate with the DPA and the data subjects on all data protection matters. This obligation applies if: (i) the processing is carried out by a public authority, (ii) the core activities of the controller/processor require the regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale, or the large scale processing of special categories of personal data - e.g. health data or trade union memberships, or criminal convictions/offences data.

The DPO may be employed or engaged under a service contract, and in any case must have sufficient expert knowledge. A group of companies may appoint a single data protection officer, provided that he is equally accessible by each company.

The controllers and processors are required to ensure the DPO's independence in the performance of his tasks, meaning that no instructions may be given to him, that he reports directly to the manager of the controller/processor and that he may not be dismissed or penalised for performing his tasks.

Accountability, data security and privacy by design & by default

Same as with the GDPR, the new law introduces burdensome accountability obligations on data controllers, which are required to "demonstrate compliance". This includes their obligation to: (i) implement, maintain and update appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk - taking into account the state of the art, the associated implementation costs etc., (ii) have in place certain documentation, such as data protection policies and records of processing activities, (iii) implement data protection by design and by default, and, (iv) conduct a data protection impact assessment for processing operations which are considered more of risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals.

Data protection by design requires the controllers to adopt, as well as maintain and update when needed, appropriate measures - such as pseudonymisation, data minimisation, etc., which will integrate the safeguards necessary for processing. Data protection by default, on the other hand, requires the controllers to adopt measures so that, by default, only the processing which is necessary for the specific purpose will be possible (e.g. that, by default, privacy settings on one's social network profile do not make his data public).

Liberalised data transfer concept

The data transfer regime has been completely revamped and liberalised under the new law, which is a much welcomed change from the current overly restrictive concept - which requires controllers to obtain prior approval from the DPA for transfers to non-European countries. The new law explicitly applies to both direct and indirect data transfers, unlike the existing law for which it is not fully clear whether it covers indirect transfers at all.

Under the new law, controllers will be entitled to transfer personal data abroad if one of the following conditions (amongst others) is met:

  • personal data is to be transferred to a country that ratified the Council of EuropeConvention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to the Automatic Processing of Personal Data;
  • data transfers are performed to a country included on the EU list or the Serbian Government's list of countries providing an adequate level of data protection;
  • data transfers are performed to a country which has a bilateral agreement with Serbia regulating data transfers;
  • the transfer is based on the standard contractual clauses prepared by the Serbian DPA;
  • the transfer is based on binding corporate rules or a code of conduct approved by the Serbian DPA, or on certificates issued in accordance with the new law;
  • the Serbian DPA has issued a specific approval for the transfer to be performed on the basis of an agreement between the data exporter and the data importer; and,
  • the data subject has explicitly consented to the proposed transfer, after having been informed of the possible risks.

This should enable much more options for the transfer of data to non-European countries, especially once the DPA prepares the standard contractual clauses - which should be based on the ones approved by the EU Commission. In addition, it is expected that the process of obtaining the DPA's approval for such transfers will be more efficient, and should be completed within 60 days - currently the procedure often lasts for more than one year.

Personal data breach obligations

Data breach obligations present a significant novelty introduced by the new law, as they previously existed only for controllers in specific sectors. Under the new law, data controllers will generally be required to document each data breach, as well as to notify the DPA of most of them, without undue delay and, when feasible, within 72 hours after becoming aware of the breach. In addition, data processors will have to notify the controllers of the breach without undue delay.

If the personal data breach is likely to result in a high risk to the rights and freedoms of individuals, the controller is also required to communicate the personal data breach to the concerned individual as well, without undue delay. However, this does not apply if the controller has implemented appropriate technical and organisational measures - e.g. encryption, which rendered the relevant data unintelligible to any unauthorised person, or if the notification would involve disproportionate efforts, in which case a public communication or a similar measure must be made in order to properly inform the individuals.

Sanctions and enforcement

The new law is generally harmonised with the GDPR in almost all aspects, with certain local specificities, except with respect to sanctions – the maximal fines which may be imposed on companies are up to approx. EUR 17,000, rather than GDPR's EUR 20 million or 4% of the company's global annual turnover. As before, the DPA is still authorised to issue warnings to data controllers and data processors, order the correction or deletion of the collected data, rectification of other detected irregularities etc., but is now also able to directly fine the controllers and processors in certain situations, with fines in the amount of approx. EUR 850 - currently, only the Court of Offences is entitled to impose fines.  

However, formally speaking, under the Law on Administrative Procedure, the DPA is also authorised to enforce its orders by threatening the company with a fine of up to 10% of its annual income in Serbia, in case it fails to comply with the order. This is a relatively new option for Serbian authorities that has not yet been tested in practice, to the best of our knowledge.  

What the future brings?

Now, it is the controllers' and processors' turn: by the summer of 2019, they will have to ensure the compliance of their data processing operations with the new law, which will not be a quick or easy task. At the same time, the DPA will also have a lot on its plate in order to prepare for the new law, especially with resolving a number of its ambiguities raised during the public debate, preparing the standard contractual clauses, and raising the public's awareness concerning the approaching data protection overhaul.

Privatisation Disputes

July 2018 - Litigation & Dispute Resolution. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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This article was written by Milan Lazić, Senior Partner , and Milica Savić, Senior Associate , and originally published in the "Reshaping the boundaries of arbitrability: Are we heading forward?" publication by the Permanent Arbitration at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia.

Geographical Indications Of Origin In Serbia: Where The Past Fuels The Future

July 2018 - Intellectual Property. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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This article was written by Dragomir Kojić, Partner ⃰, and Tamara Bubalo, Associate ⃰, and was originally published in Issue 5.2 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. To see the original article, please follow this link.

Geographical indication of origin, this very peculiar form of industrial property protection, has undergone a revival phase over the past few years, thus becoming more omnipresent not only within the circles of interest, but also amongst the Serbian public at large. Although, up to this day, there are only a few dozen geographical indications of origin registered before the Serbian Intellectual Property office, for a country of little over 7 million spread over 80.000 square kilometers of land, these numbers are remarkable and represent something to be proud of. Through goods and services offered thereunder, they are painting a picture of a different Serbia.

Generally used for the marking of natural, artisanal or industrially produced food, goods and produce, this legally coined term has come to reflect something much greater; the traditional and folkloric expressions of this country, its socio-cultural identity and its historical heritage. Through dozens of well curated picks of what each autochthone region has to offer as its best, once stemming from the ancient past only to be passed down to its modern day successors, these traditional expressions nowadays include, textiles, knits, cheeses, wines, and even health services.

The surge in interest surrounding geographical indications of origin is nowadays largely due to the country's policy of promoting and subsidizing small and medium sized enterprises which focus on craftsmanship, artisanal work and localized types of services which, in a way, help revive and ultimately preserve some of the traditional craft.

Geographical indications, similarly to trademarks, transmit certain messages, aiming at informing a potential consumer on the origins of a given product, and its specific properties only to be found in that unique place of origin. They are therefore very useful tools when it comes to highlighting those specific or unique properties of each and every product or service offered under its umbrella. This can for instance be reflected through a particular climate, manufacturing or a traditional approach to creating a product, all depending on the given region.

Thus impacting the perception of both domestic and international consumers and promoting the country at large has proven to be a large success. Valjevski Duvan Čvarci, Pirot Kilims, Sirogojno Knits, and Bermet sweet desert Wine, just to name a few, come to serve as excellent examples of products which, due to their (i) defined geographical area, (ii) specific, territorially defined manufacturing methods, and (iii) localized product quality, have become recognized tools of promotion not only in Serbia but also beyond its borders.

By solidifying its bases through a plethora of now internationally recognized goods, Serbia has very recently even gone a step further by registering its very first geographical indication for services offered in Zlatibor, a mountainous region in western Serbia known for its „Golden Pines".

Stepping out from theory into practice, Serbia has become the very first country to actually register a service under the category of geographical indication of origin, thus far only foreseen on paper by the local legislation.

The geographical indication of origin in question refers to the provision of health-tourism services provided exclusively in the Zlatibor region, and more particularly on the territory of the municipality of Čajetina. Registered under the indication Čigota, a mountain pass in Zlatibor, this specific service epitomizes a well-balanced mixture of natural and human factors such as, on the one hand, clean air with low humidity, specific light ion concentrations, an absence of allergens, and high pH levels in water, and on the other, a highly skilled medical and diagnostics staff.

Čigota is indeed that perfect example that allows us to shift our perception when it comes to geographical indications of origin, as it tears down the barriers of the traditional use of this legal tool and allows us to open up towards new possibilities stemming from more innovative concepts.

*Independent attorneys at law in cooperation with Karanović & Nikolić.

Striving Towards the Black Gold

July 2018 - Projects, Energy & Natural Resources. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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This article was written by Petar Mitrović, Partner ⃰, and Nikolina Kažić, Associate ⃰, and was originally published in Issue 5.2 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine To see the original article, please follow this

The first upscale exploration of oil and gas in Montenegro started in 1914, when King Nikola Petrović approved the National Assembly's decision for oil exploration around Lake Skadar. The first well in the area of Crmnica dates back to 1922 – although it produced nothing of significance.

In later researches of the Montenegrin offshore, the existence of geological structures with the potential for hiding hydrocarbon deposits was confirmed. During the 70s and 80s, several American firms set up wells in the Montenegrin undersea area and confirmed oil and gas findings. However, no significant work was done pursuant to this confirmation, mainly due to the political and social instability of this Balkan country.

In the years that followed, and especially following the dissolution of the state union of Serbia and Montenegro in 2006, oil and gas exploration and exploitation formed the center of the Government's energy policy, and Montenegro made a significant effort to develop the industry. The country has defined its energy policy until 2030, adopted the Energy Development Strategy until 2025, and signed the Declaration of Accession to the Energy Charter in late 2012. The main objective of the adopted energy policy is the creation of an adequate legislative, financial, and regulatory framework to encourage private sector involvement and investments. Research shows that the total oil core potential in two separate submarine zones in Montenegro amounts to 12.5 x 109 tons. According to existing data, potential oil reserves amount to approximately 7 billion barrels, while potential natural gas reserves amount to 425 billion square meters.

Montenegro aims to follow the achievements of other countries in the Adriatic Sea that have valorized their potential in this field with around 1,500 exploration wells. Italy is the clear champion, with around 1,400 drilling sites. Neighboring Croatia drilled around 140 exploration wells and currently has 18 gas production platforms in the northern Adriatic.

As a sign of progress and the decisiveness of Montenegro to use its existing potential, the first tender for oil and gas exploration and production was announced in late 2013. So far, the Montenegrin Government has signed concession agreements with two consortia: the Italian-Russian Eni/Novatek (which was granted concession rights over four offshore blocks, covering 1,228 square kilometers), and the Greek company Energean oil & gas (which was granted two offshore blocks with a surface area of 338 square kilometers in shallow waters).

In the light of normative regulation, Montenegro adopted the Law on Exploration and Production of Hydrocarbons, the Tax Law on Hydrocarbons, and regulations governing the method of calculating compensation payments for oil and gas production, construction of exploration and exploitation plants, development and production of hydrocarbons, drilling, and so on. Additionally, the Government has adopted the model of the Concession Contract for the Production of Hydrocarbons, which is divided into two phases: the Exploration phase and the Hydrocarbons production phase.

The exploration phase may last for a maximum of six years for onshore or seven years for offshore blocks. Upon the concessionaire's request, and only in cases specified by law, the exploration phase may be extended for up to two years. However, the hydrocarbons production phase begins from the day of the commencement of the first extraction of hydrocarbons from the reservoir and lasts until the expiry of the deadline envisaged by the production concession contract, or a maximum of up to 20 years. The production phase may, at a request from the concessionaire, be extended at most for half of the duration of the production phase period specified by the production concession contract; i.e., for a maximum of 10 years.

With the Tax Law on Hydrocarbons, Montenegro made a plan to acquire revenue from companies doing business in the industry involving taxes and reimbursements for produced oil and gas. The strategy for acquiring revenue is progressive – meaning that the companies that have the most profit will pay an increased (progressive) rate for the produced oil and gas. In the period during the production of oil and gas, oil companies are due to pay a tax of 54% on the profit acquired from the exploration and production of oil and related assets, as well as 9% on dividends (i.e., capital gains).

The next tender for the exploration of oil and gas in the Montenegrin undersea area should open during this year or in 2019, since the Montenegrin Government is striving to introduce as many concessionaires as possible to the Montenegrin off-shore territory.

 

Independent attorneys at law in cooperation with Karanović & Nikolić.

Montenegro To Publish A Tender For A 200 MW Solar Power Plant

July 2018 - Projects, Energy & Natural Resources. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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The Montenegrin Government plans to publish a tender for the lease of state land for the purpose of constructing a solar power plant in the municipality of Ulcinj. According to the announcement, the tender envisages a total of 6,621,121 square meters of land for the planning, construction, exploitation, and maintenance of a solar power plant at Briska gora, in the very south of Montenegro.

The plant is intended to have a total installed capacity of more than 200 MW, and will be completed in two phases. Phase one needs to be completed within 18 months after the signing of the contract, and phase two within 24 months after the first stage.

Offers to lease the land and build the power plant can be submitted by investors with proven experience in building solar plants with an installed capacity of at least 100 MW, and that have reported gross incomes of more than EUR 100 million in the past three fiscal years.

According to the Ministry's press release, the selected project is expected to sell electricity to the local grid through a long-term PPA on market terms.

Local press reports indicate that the project may require a total investment of EUR 300 million, and two potential investors have already submitted letters of intent to the Montenegrin authorities.

This will be the first tender for a large scale renewables project in Montenegro since 2010 and the awarding of "concessions" for wind parks Krnovo and Mo žura.

Laying the Foundations: ZF Group Building a Factory in Serbia

July 2018 - Corporate & Commercial. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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The Karanović & Nikolić team, led by Senior Partner Marjan Poljak and Senior Associates ⃰ Ana Stanković and Ana Luković, advised ZF Friedrichshafen on the project of opening an electric vehicle parts factory in Pančevo, Serbia. The German company, a global leader specialising in the design, research and development, and manufacturing activities in the automotive industry, laid the foundations and began construction on 21 June 2018.

Karanović & Nikolić advised ZF in this greenfield investment on all local law aspects of this project. The team provided full support in a number of different areas, including corporate, real estate, employment etc.

The new 25.000 square metres factory, which is being built on a land parcel of 10.8 hectares, will produce parts for electric and hybrid-electric vehicles and will service premium automotive manufacturers. The project will be realized in two stages and will open more than 1,000 new jobs. The planned investment amounts to more than EUR 100 million.

ZF operates in 40 countries around the world and has a global workforce of over 146,000 employees. In 2017, it recorded sales of EUR 36.4 billion. The company invests more than six percent of its sales in research and development annually, in particular for the development of efficient and electric drivelines.

ZF group is committed to its Vision Zero – zero accidents and zero emissions being the end goal of all the company's activities.

 

* Independent attorneys at law in cooperation with Karanović & Nikolić.

Interview with Patricia Gannon: The Importance of Female Leadership in Law Today

April 2018 - Corporate & Commercial. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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Patricia Gannon, founding partner at Karanović & Nikolić, was recently appointed Chair of the European Forum at the International Bar Association. In this interview, she discusses her role at the helm of the largest global gathering of legal professionals and tackles the important topic of diversity in law, as well as female leadership from her unique perspective as female co-founder of a leading law firm from Southeast Europe.

You have recently been appointed to the role of Chair of the European Forum at the IBA. What does this important position entail?

 

Patricia:As a firm, Karanović & Nikolić has been heavily involved with the IBA since our foundation. In particular, I have personally been active in a number of committees over the years as they represent a great way to stay on top of professional change. Most recently, the European Regional Forum, which is the forum responsible for managing and organizing all of the IBA conferences and events throughout Europe. The Forum is made up of 9,000 individual lawyer members and is the largest Forum within the IBA.

 

I have served as an officer for the last 5 years – culminating in a number of years of practical experience involving conference and event organizing. Today, there are 10 officers reporting in from different law firms all over Europe, we also have an advisory board of 25 senior lawyers, and approximately 50 council members representing every country in Europe. The council members are responsible for liaising between the European Forum and their own countries.

What do you feel that you bring to that role and what are your aims and hopes for the year?

Patricia: I bring a certain dynamic to the role which hasn't always been seen and I am keen to innovate a little more in order to move the IBA towards becoming a more modern organization, really reflecting the changes in the legal profession. This year, in addition to running the normal day-to-day conferences, we are looking for special funding from the IBA for a number of exiting projects.

One of them includes a review of the UK Modern Slavery Act on production and supply chain in the fashion industry. We hope to come to an understanding on the impact of extraterritorial legislation on corporates operating in this field. This is an exciting project which is relevant to consumers everywhere, as they are increasingly concerned about the human and environmental impact of clothes production.

I am working on a very exciting meeting in Rome – it is the Annual Meeting of the IBA scheduled for October, and it will include a number of very exciting sessions dealing with the hottest legal topics in the world. The ERF sessions include "Remaking Rome – the Treaty of Rome and what Europe Needs Now".

We will be working with other committees in a session on European luxury brands titled "Do you know where your clothes come from?". There will also be a session organized by all fora titled "The Future of Food – a Global Issue for Humanity", where we look at legal and policy issues relating to food production, resources, packaging, regulation, genetically modified content etc.

You are interested in the IBA diversity group. Will this relate to your role as the Chair of the European Forum?

Patricia:Global membership in the IBA today is about 70 percent male and 30 percent female – which is not entirely in recognition of the make-up of the profession generally. In certain countries it is almost 50-50, and this is including the judiciary, prosecutors, house-counsel, solicitors and barristers. Different parts of the profession are more female than others. Overall, considering the 70-30 percent membership, I feel that the 30 percent has not historically been represented appropriately throughout the organization and, in fact, a special task force is being established within the IBA to deal with diversity in general, including gender.

In my role as Chair of the European Forum, I made it my priority at one of my first meetings to ensure that 50 percent of all the representatives in my Council are female. I am very pleased to say that today 47 percent of the Council members are female. As a result of that, I expect to see a new dynamic with greater productivity and focus. Out of that pool of talented women, I hope to see more and more of them promoted across the ranks of the IBA. It's a process of change which the legal profession, as any other needs to address.

It must be interesting, not only being a woman, but also representing a law firm from this part of Europe?

Patricia: Yes, indeed! The IBA has relatively low membership numbers from Southeast Europe, and I hope that raising the organization's profile in SEE will raise membership and that we will get more active and learn from our colleagues both from Western Europe and across the globe. With that in mind, I will be opening the Balkan Legal Forum – our traditional bi-annual conference dealing with this region – which is to be held in Vienna on the 14th of June. I am very pleased to be involved in this highly relevant conference for all practitioners working in Southeast Europe. With approximately 150 attendees, it is the perfect opportunity to meet old friends who understand the complexity of doing business in the Balkans, making new connections and developing new ideas for investment opportunities.

As for Karanović & Nikolić and its role, we have been a corporate member of the International Bar Association for many years – which means that all the lawyers working with us are individual members of the IBA and can participate in its activities and learn from their peers through committee work. As a firm, we are keen to support all the organizations where lawyers can learn, develop and be in touch with current best practices, albeit from other markets. I think that we in Southeast Europe have some catching up to do in terms of the levels of professionalism that we need to provide to our international clients. The IBA is a great instrument for our further professional evolution.

Raspberries and IT: New Sector Inquiries by the Serbian Competition Commission

March 2018 - EU & Competition. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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The Serbian Competition Commission (the "Commission") recently finished sector inquiries concerning quite distinct industries – raspberries and the public procurement for software and hardware. The aim behind the inquiries was to perform extensive market research and analysis in order to acquire a clearer picture of the possible antitrust issues and risks in two sectors widely perceived as strategic for the development of the Serbian economy.

The Commission analysed two relevant markets within the broader ICT market - more specifically:

  • the wholesale of software; and,
  • the wholesale of hardware (computers and computer equipment).

These markets are especially interesting in relation to the public procurement procedures, where the value of public procurements rose by 27% from 2014 to 2016, mostly in open bidding procedures. The Commission identified four major contracting authorities, the largest of them being "Elektroprivreda Srbije" and six suppliers/bidders identified as largest by accounting for almost 50% of the value of the relevant public procurements.

Having in mind the characteristics of these markets, inter alia, a small number of market players, few alternatives to the services provided, repetitive public procurement procedures, the Commission noted that bid rigging could be a potential cause for concern, and stated that it would dedicate special attention to working together with the relevant actors in rooting out any such practices in the future, in order to ensure a level playing field and efficient use of public resources.

The second sector inquiry dealt with the markets for raspberry repurchase and export in the period between 2015 and 2017. The competitive conditions on these markets are likely especially interesting for the local authorities, since Serbia is one of the largest producers of raspberries in the world, accountable for approx. 10% of the raspberries grown globally.

During the inquiry, the Commission determined that there are certain structural issues that might affect the relevant markets and the Serbian raspberry industry as a whole. The problems with a single repurchase price and long-term supply agreements gave rise to uncertainties concerning the value of raspberries produced and sold on the market. The Commission stressed the importance of including all the competent authorities and undertakings in order to solve these problems and maintain raspberries as a prominent and recognisable Serbian brand.

The Commission ultimately concluded that it did not identify any prima facie evidence of competition infringements affecting either of these markets. However, this does not mean that the Commission, now armed with more detailed information on the competitive environment, would not scrutinize the behaviour of specific market players at some point in the future. 

Even More Sector Inquiries: Sportswear And Oil Retail Under Scrutiny By The Serbian Commission

March 2018 - EU & Competition. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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The Serbian Competition Commission (the " Commission ") continues its diligent examination of the Serbian competitive landscape in specific industries, this time with inquiries in two more industries – sportswear (including footwear and sporting equipment) and oil (petroleum products). Once again, the aim behind the market test was to identify potential issues on the relevant markets and provide broader insight into the functioning of the relevant markets.

Both of these industries have previously been of some interest to the Commission. The Commission recently conducted dawn raids and fined several sportswear retailers for resale price maintenance. The Commission has identified significant concentration on this market, giving rise to potential concerns about restrictive agreements in the industry, especially vis-à-vis the relationship between suppliers and resellers.

Sector inquiries into the conditions in oil wholesale and retail have traditionally been high on the Commission's agenda, with a number of market investigations conducted into the past. The noted a trend of market growth in comparison to 2016, especially in relation to production of crude oil and import of diesel fuel. The Commission (sadly) noted limited progress being made in terms of the recommendations relevant to market development it issued in previous reports. The Commission stated that it would watch over the oil industry with great care and already announced a new inquiry in this sector starting in March and covering 2017.

Sector inquiries have obviously been on the rise in the previous period, simultaneously contributing to the Commission's understanding of the workings of the markets identified as key to the Serbian economy and the antitrust awareness of market players. The next steps for both sector investigations and antitrust enforcement efforts spearheaded by the Commission remain to be seen and are eagerly awaited in the local competition community.

New Amendments to Serbian Tax Laws

March 2018 - Tax & Private Client. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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At the end of 2017, the Serbian Parliament passed amendments to Serbian tax laws, including the Law on Personal Income Tax (PIT Law), the Law on Contributions on Mandatory Social Insurance (CMSI Law), the Law on Corporate Income Tax (CIT Law), and the Law on Value Added Tax (VAT Law).

These amendments introduce tax relief for salaries paid to employees in newly incorporated legal entities. Also, starting from April 2018, only service fees for business advisory services paid to non-resident legal entities will be subject to withholding tax, as opposed to all service fees paid to non-resident legal entities, as prescribed in the current CIT Law. In addition, Serbia continues to reduce the tax burden related to NPL write-offs.

The amendments are generally effective as of 1 January 2018, with some exceptions explained below.

Income tax and social security contributions

Under the amendments to the PIT Law and the CMSI Law, salaries paid to first nine employees as well as to the employed shareholders and entrepreneurs, will be fully exempted from salary tax and social security contributions. The exemptions will start to apply from 1 October 2018 and shall be applicable for salaries paid by entrepreneurs and legal entities that are established before 31 December 2020. Salaries will be exempted from tax for the first 12 months of employment.

Although the introduced relief will be of significance for small start-up companies, it is unclear whether the employees will be mandatory insured during the period of exemption since contributions for pension and disability, as well as for health insurance, will not be paid.

A collective life insurance premium – which is paid for all employees, as well as monetary support for the purpose of employee medical treatment is exempted from taxation and the payment of social contributions.

Under the amendments, the write-off of the NPLs is not subject to personal income tax as long as such a write-off is deductible for corporate income tax purposes. Also, it is prescribed that the amount of the write-off that was not collected after the sale of mortgaged real property is not subject to tax.

The position of non-resident individuals is also tackled in the recent changes in the Serbian legislation. Amendments to the PIT Law clarify that the taxable income of non-residents covers income from work done in Serbia, as well as income generated from (i) any right emerging on the territory of Serbia, or (ii) any property which is located in Serbia and which is at the disposal of a non-resident. In addition, it is now clearly prescribed that foreign employees seconded to Serbia (i.e. expatriates) are liable to pay salary tax for work done in Serbia.

The PIT Law and the CMSI Law prescribe new thresholds for tax payments and contributions in 2018 as follows:

  • the general monthly salary tax deduction is increased to app. EUR 130 (RSD 15.000), from existing app. EUR 100 (RSD 11.790);
  • the minimal monthly contributions base is set to a gross amount of app. EUR 200 (RSD 23,053); and,
  • the highest annual contributions base for 2018 is set to a gross amount of app. EUR 2.700 (RSD 329,330).

Law on corporate income tax

The amendments to the CIT Law narrowed the list of service fees that are subject to the withholding tax. Serbian resident legal entities will have to pay withholding tax only for service fees paid to non-residents providing market research, accounting, auditing and other legal and business consulting services, irrespectively to the place of the provision or usage of those services. Also, the deadline for the payment of withholding tax is extended, so that one has to pay the tax within 3 days after paying the non-resident's fee. The amendments related to withholding tax are effective from 1 April 2018.

Amendments concerning depreciation specify that fixed assets which are comprised out of immovable and movable parts should be classified in tax depreciation groups – which corresponds to the classification made for accounting purposes. Intangible assets (concessions, patents, licences...) will be depreciated using the proportional, instead of the declining method.

Further to the decision of the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) issued earlier in 2017 and which prescribes that NPLs should be written-off by the banks and evidenced off-balance, the amendments to the CIT Law prescribe that the expenses recorded by the bank, as a consequence of the write-off, are deductible for CIT purposes. These amendments are already applicable to the assessment of CIT for 2017.

Law on value added tax

The main change introduced by the amendments to the VAT Law is related to concession agreements and public-private partnership agreements. Based on the amendments, any supply made between a concessionaire and the provider of the concession are not regarded as supply for VAT purposes, and therefore are not subject to VAT under certain conditions. This exception applies if both parties are registered VAT payers and if they would be entitled to a deduction of input VAT in case that the regular supply is carried.

An important amendment introduces the possibility for VAT payers to reduce their output VAT if the tax authority determines that there was a misapplication of the "reverse charge" calculation. If the tax authority denies the deduction of input VAT to the taxpayer that applied the "reverse charge", the taxpayer may also reduce its output VAT on the basis of such the tax resolution.

In order to align Serbian VAT rules with the VAT rules in the EU, amendments to the VAT Law introduce rules on the VAT treatment for the supply of "investment gold". Generally, the supply of investment gold and intermediation in the supply of investment gold are exempted from VAT.

Amendments also relate to the VAT position of individuals. It is prescribed that individuals are entitled to a VAT refund paid when purchasing one's first apartment, in cases when the purchase price was paid to a bank account other than the bank account of the seller, as well as when the apartment is under mortgage or when the apartment is purchased in enforcement proceedings. Also, the supply of goods to travellers that do not have a permanent or temporary address in Serbia (not only supplies to foreign citizens) is exempted from VAT, if the value of the goods exceeds EUR 100.

 

 

The information in this document does not constitute legal advice on any particular matter and is provided for general informational purposes only.

Permit-free Regime for Construction in Montenegro

March 2018 - Real Estate & Property. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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The new Construction Law entered into force in Montenegro and it is meant to unify construction, zoning regulations and deal with illegal objects. However, some provisions of the old Construction Law still remain in force, until the adoption of the General Regulation Plan.

The new Construction Law completely changed the legal regime of construction in Montenegro. It aims to simplify and compile spatial planning, boost the construction industry and deal with historical issues concerning the massive construction of illegal objects. It also aims to further centralise the decision-making processes in this industry.

Authority centralisation

Perhaps the most important novelty under the new Construction Law is that that there will be only two spatial planning documents for the territory of Montenegro (instead of hundreds of so far enacted documents). Both plans will be enacted by the Parliament upon the Government's preparation and proposal. Those are:

  • the Spatial Plan of Montenegro, which is a general planning document, that is to be valid 20 years after the adoption; and,
  • the General Regulation Plan, which is a more detailed zoning plan, that is to be valid 10 years after the adoption.

The Spatial Plan of Montenegro is a higher ranked planning document. It will regulate the strategic guidelines for spatial planning, the basis for the development and spatial organisation and the policy of spatial usage, the concept for maritime spatial planning, the general guidelines for the adoption of the General Regulation Plan, as well as principles for the preservation of cultural heritage and environmental protection.

Strategic principles and guidelines set out in the Spatial Plan will be further developed under the General Regulation Plan – which will provide the conditions and the manner for spatial development and construction. This plan will completely encompass the territory of Montenegro, and it will regulate construction capacities. Specifically, it will provide for spatial designation, the conditions for its development, building capacities and boundaries, parcelling rules etc. The General Regulation Plan is planned for adoption within the next 36 months. Until then, all currently applicable spatial plans and zoning documents remain in force.

A new construction and usage regime

Another major novelty is that the permitting system is replaced with a permit-free regime. This means that one is no longer required to obtain a construction or usage permit. In order to construct, an investor is required to prepare a report for construction, an audited main design and other necessary documents. Upon the finalisation of the construction, instead obtaining the usage permit, the new object should only be registered at the competent Land Registry.

The permitting regime still applies to the most complex construction projects, such as, for example, heavy industry and energy facilities.

Chief state/city architects

The New Law introduces two new instances which will play the main role in the construction process. These are chief state architect and city architects. The chief state architect will be in charge of all projects of national interest and will guide the legalisation of objects. His role is also to ensure the protection of authenticity of the space and the promotion of best practice in areas of urbanism and architecture. The city architects will be in charge of approving concept designs of buildings, squares and other public areas in settlements, verifying the compliance of concept designs with the urban projects, and approving temporary constructions. The chief state architect is elected by the Government, while the chief city architects are elected by local municipalities.

(Un)Developed construction land fees

A new burden for the owners of construction land is that they will be obliged to pay a monthly land development fee, for the undeveloped construction land in their ownership. After the development, the owner is obliged to pay monthly city land rent. The amounts of these fees will be determined by local municipalities - which is expected to occur within 60 days upon the adoption of the General Regulation Plan.

The information in this document does not constitute legal advice on any particular matter and is provided for general informational purposes only.

Amendments To The Slovenian Construction Law

February 2018 - Real Estate & Property. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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With the aim of breathing a bit of fresh air into the construction legislation, three new laws have been adopted recently and will be applied with effect from 1 July 2018. The current Construction Act will be replaced with both the new Building Act and the Architectural and Civil Engineering Activities Act, while the current Spatial Management Act will also be subject to certain amendments.

The Slovenian construction legislation went through several major changes due to its complicated and unclear nature. The previous law required broad project documentation, meaning very high expenses and long procedures for obtaining building permits. The new Building Act thus simplifies the procedure and brings many novelties, especially for investors to the procedure itself, with pre-decision being one of the most important ones. Apart from that, the Building Act does not require building permits for simple and temporary buildings. They also become unnecessary for building maintenance and demolition purposes, in which case only the demolition of the building should be registered with the administrative unit 8 days before the demolition starts. The Building Act further broadens the definition of "building" to the physical, construction and similar structural changes.

Apart from the above, the Building Act brings the procedure of obtaining building permits and the procedure of obtaining environmental approval – where the latter is a requirement for the building permit, into the so called "integral procedure". According to the Building Act, only one body based on one document shall decide on both the building permit and environmental approval, while a special role is assigned to the general public, which will have an opportunity to review the documentation and submit comments and suggestions.

One of the main novelties that the Building Act brings, in relation to the renewed procedure on obtaining the building permit, is the reduction of documentation that has to be submitted in order to obtain the building permit. The requested documentation is still to be defined in further regulations that will be adopted after the Building Act is applied. In order to simplify the procedure further, administrative units will have a more important role - being obliged to provide investors with non-binding information and advice.

Investors will now have the possibility of requesting the administrative unit to issue a pre-decision in relation to the compliance of the project with the spatial planning documents and other construction law provisions. Investors will still be obliged to submit detailed project documentation alongside with the request for a pre-decision. However, investors will not be obliged to prove the ownership right or the right to build on land for the issuance of the pre-decision. The pre-decision will provide legal security and investment predictability for the investor, as the administrative unit will issue the opinion on the admissibility of construction even before the administrative unit issues the building permit and the investor obtains ownership over the land. The pre-decision will also be binding for the administrative unit when issuing the building permit itself, and will thus prevent spatial planning documents to be subsequently amended.

The Building Act will also simplify the procedure of obtaining the building permit by amending the procedures on obtaining consent from the competent authorities. The Building Act thus abolishes consent (Slovene soglasja) and instead implements opinions (Slovene mnenje) by the authorities competent for granting the opinions (Slovene mnenjedajalec). In cases when the opinion authority will not issue the opinion, or the opinions are inconsistent or exceed the legal grounds, the administrative unit will be entitled to organise an oral hearing in order to harmonise opinions, and even decide on the opinion itself. If the opinion authorities will not issue an opinion during the given deadline, its' opinion may be substituted with the opinion of the authority supervising the opinion authority, or by the opinion of an expert.

The Building Act further implements broader conditions for the use of the short fact-finding procedure, which will be carried out for all buildings, if the project documentation is submitted together with the building designer's or project manager's confirmation on the fulfilment of the essential conditions, positive opinions of the opinion authorities, notices by third-party participants, and the confirmation on the payment of the communal fee or the compensation for degradation and usurpation.

Also, certain changes will be implemented concerning the registration for the commencement of the construction. Instead of registration with the Labour inspectorate 15 days in advance, the investor will be obliged to register the commencement of construction with the administrative unit 8 days before the construction begins. The registration shall be submitted electronically or by form – which is still to be prescribed by the .

The Building Act also amends the legalisation procedures for existing buildings, aiming to solve past problems. It will be thus possible to legalise all buildings with deviations, which will be acceptable under the Building Act, as well as those buildings, which comply either with the Building Act or with the act which was in use during the construction time. The latter can be carried out 5 years after the Building Act enters into force. Further, all buildings, built prior to 1 January 1998, whose purpose and scale remained the same, can become legal. In those cases, permissions for long-existing buildings will be issued.

Apart from the above, all procedures will be simplified by submitting the requests and documents via the electronic spatial information system, providing for the simple obtaining of permissions and faster communication between the authorities and parties in the procedures. The electronic system is planned to be implemented by 2021.

The information in this document does not constitute legal advice on any particular matter and is provided for general informational purposes only.

New Merger Control Regulation Enters Into Force Today

March 2016 - EU & Competition. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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The New Merger Control Regulation, governing the content and the manner of submitting merger filings to the Serbian Competition Commission, entered into force today, 2 February 2016. The new Regulation represents a modern legal document, fully aligned with the relevant EU acquis, and will  significantly facilitate the merger filing process to the benefit of the applicants, as well as the overall efficiency of the Competition Commission.

Karanović & Nikolić Participates In 2016 Guide To European Employment Law

March 2016 - Employment. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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Karanović & Nikolić labour law experts from multiple jurisdictions have taken an active role in the preparation of a new 2016 guide to European employment law. Karanović & Nikolić participated here as a member of the World Service Group, an association of international independent leading legal, accounting and investment banking firms. Shepherd and Wedderburn, a leading UK law firm and the founding member of World Service Group, has organised the publication of this useful international guide for investors, and our team has provided a contribution for Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slovenia. The 2016 edition of the popular guide summarises recent changes to labour laws across 20 European jurisdictions and highlights the major changes and trends in this area. The chapters referring to countries covered by Karanović & Nikolić may be found available for download below, while the entire publication may be downloaded from Shepherd and Wedderburn site

http://www.shepwedd.co.uk/news-and-events/news/shepherd-and-wedderburn-publishes-2016-guide-european-employment-law

Ministry Of Labour Held A Round Table Discussion On The New Law On Secondment

March 2016 - Employment. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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Employment law expert, Mirko Kovač, attended a Roundtable discussion on the new Law on Conditions for Secondment of Employees Abroad and their Protection organised by the Ministry of Labour on 13 January 2016. Our office previously analysed this law in more detail and additional information on the novelties it introduces may be found on our website (http://www.karanovic-nikolic.com/2015/11/16/serbia-adopts-law-on-conditions-for-secondment-of-employees-abroad-and-their-protection/ ). Mirko has been personally invited by representatives of the Ministry of Labour to take part in this discussion, as a recognised expert in the area of secondment regulations. The discussion was lively and mainly focused on the practical aspects of the new law's application, as well as its impact on the protection of our citizens abroad. Trade union representatives – present at the discussion – raised their concerns regarding certain aspects of the law and the level of protection provided to employees abroad, noting how they expect state authorities to closely monitor that employers fully abide to this law in practice. For more details on this Roundtable, please refer tohttp://www.minrzs.gov.rs/lat/aktuelno/item/4391-od-danas-primena-zakona-o-privremenom-upucivanju-na-rad-u-inostrantvo-zaposlenih-lica

Serbia Adopts Law on Conditions for Secondment of Employees Abroad and their Protection

January 2016 - Employment. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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The Parliament of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Law on Conditions for Secondment of Employees Abroad and their Protection (the “Law”). The Law will be applicable two months following its coming into force, i.e. 13 January 2016.

Amendments to Macedonian Labour Regulations

December 2015 - Employment. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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Pursuant to recent labour regulation amendments, an employer could be released from the obligation to pay mandatory social contributions ("Contributions") for the hired replacement of an employee on a maternity leave, if certain conditions are met. The main intention of these amendments is to increase the protection of female employees and to decrease the risk of termination of an employee due to pregnancy. In order to rely on this exemption, the employer must:

New regulation on reporting of credit operations with non-residents in Macedonia

November 2015 - Finance. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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The National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia (“NBRM”) has adopted a new Decision on the Manner and Terms of Recording and Notification of Executed Credit Operations (“Decision”), which applies to credit operations of Macedonian residents with non-residents. This Decision was adopted at the beginning of October, and came into force on 1st November.

 

Macedonian ‘Safe Harbour’ agreement ruled invalid by the European Court of Justice

November 2015 - Tax & Private Client. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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On 6 October 2015, the European Court of Justice deemed the “Safe Harbour” agreement that allowed for the transfer of personal data from the EU to the US to be invalid. The “Safe Harbour” agreement was concluded in 2000 between the European Commission and the US government and essentially guarantees protection of personal data transferred by American companies from the EU to the US. In practice, it allowed companies (such as Facebook, Google, Apple etc.) to self-regulate the protection of EU citizens’ data in carrying out exports to US data centres.

New Law on Consensual Financial Restructuring

November 2015 - Finance. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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As of 3 February 2016, the new Law on Consensual Financial Restructuring (“Law”) will introduce an improved framework for voluntary debt restructuring in Serbia (“Restructuring”). The Law was adopted as a part of a national strategy to address the increasing number of non-performing loans in the country, which was adopted in August 2015 (“Strategy”).[1] The Law will replace the existing Law on Consensual Financial Restructuring of 2011, which produced modest results in practice.

The Rulebook Governing VAT Registration of Foreign Entities Enacted

October 2015 - Tax & Private Client. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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In accordance with the latest amendments to the VAT Law, the Ministry of Finance has adopted a Rulebook on the Manner and Procedure of Approving Tax Representation for the purpose of Value Added Tax (Rulebook). The Rulebook outlines the procedure and documentary requirements for VAT registration of foreign entities in Serbia.

Serbian Competition Commission Intensifies Enforcement

September 2015 - EU & Competition. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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The Serbian Commission for Protection of Competition did not seem to relax much during the summer months, actually intensifying efforts to enforce competition law by launching several investigations.

New Personal Income Tax Law in the Republic of Srpska

September 2015 - Tax & Private Client. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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On 16 July 2015, the Parliament of Republic of Srpska (“RS”) adopted a new Law on Personal Income Tax (“Law”) which came into force on September 1st 2015.

Law on Conversion Adopted in Serbia

August 2015 - Real Estate & Property. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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On 28 July 2015 the newly enacted “Law on Conversion” (the “Law”) which sets out the procedure for converting the right of use into ownership rights over construction land for a fee (the “Conversion”), will come in force.

IP Pro Discusses Fake Goods in Eastern Europe

August 2015 - Intellectual Property. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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Karanovic & Nikolic IP Senior Associate Relja Mirkov was recently interviewed by IP Pro on Eastern European countries that attract fake goods from Asia and how to tackle the problem.

Setting Up a Pre-harvest Financing Framework in Serbia

June 2015 - Finance. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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Over the last 10 years, considerable legislative efforts have been made towards creating a favourable framework for financing agribusiness and agricultural production in Serbia. The latest piece of legislation in that sector is a law on secured pre-harvest financing.

Tax Legislation Overhaul Proposed in the Republic of Srpska

May 2015 - Tax & Private Client. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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Significant changes to the tax regulations in the Republic of Srpska (“RS”) are expected in the coming months. On March 6, the National Assembly of RS passed amendments to the Law on Fiscal Cash Registries. In addition, Parliament approved the Government’s proposals on amendments to several important tax laws, including corporate income tax, personal income tax, social security contributions and property tax. Proposed changes to the laws governing accounting and financial audits have also been approved. These changes are intended to clarify and strengthen existing tax rules, widen the tax base and introduce more discipline in the payment of tax, but also to reduce the tax burden for businesses in order to stimulate economic growth.

VAT Exemption Rules Clarified in the New Rulebook of the Minister of Finance of Montenegro

May 2015 - Tax & Private Client. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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The Montenegrin Minister of Finance issued a Rulebook on the Procedures Governing VAT Exemptions for Investors and Supply of Certain Products and Services (the “Rulebook”). The Rulebook defines in more detail the process of VAT exemption introduced by recent amendments to the VAT Law of Montenegro.

Tax Legislation Overhaul Proposed in the Republic of Srpska

May 2015 - Tax & Private Client. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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Significant changes to the tax regulations in the Republic of Srpska (“RS”) are expected in the coming months. On March 6, the National Assembly of RS passed amendments to the Law on Fiscal Cash Registries. In addition, Parliament approved the Government’s proposals on amendments to several important tax laws, including corporate income tax, personal income tax, social security contributions and property tax. Proposed changes to the laws governing accounting and financial audits have also been approved. These changes are intended to clarify and strengthen existing tax rules, widen the tax base and introduce more discipline in the payment of tax, but also to reduce the tax burden for businesses in order to stimulate economic growth.


The Gas Pipelines, the Cold War and the Black Sea Region

May 2015 - Projects, Energy & Natural Resources. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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Since the end of the Cold War, the Black Sea region has gained even greater political and economic importance and has become the subject of a dominance battle between world powers including the United States of America, Russia and the most influential member states of the European Union. While these world powers battle for dominance, local players such as Turkey and Ukraine have also gained importance and have used their geopolitical position to promote themselves as key international policy players.

 

Supporting Renewables in Serbia

May 2015 - Projects, Energy & Natural Resources. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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Serbia is a contracting party to the Energy Community Treaty (ECT), signed in October 2005 between the European Union (EU) and nine South Eastern European countries. Since then, Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia have ceased to be parties upon their accession to the EU and thus are no longer parties to the ECT, while Moldova and Ukraine have become parties to the agreement.

Recent Amendments to Montenegrin Tax Legislation

April 2015 - Corporate & Commercial . Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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Montenegro

The Montenegrin Parliament recently enacted the new Law on Tax on Coffee and amendments to the Law on Value Added Tax, the Law on Real Estate Tax, the Law on Tax Administration and the Law on Mandatory Social Security. The purpose of these changes is to clarify existing provisions of these tax laws in order to improve their enforcement and to better control the tax liabilities of non-resident taxpayers. Changes to the Law on Real Estate Tax have introduced higher taxes, but also tax benefits aimed at stimulating the development of high-end tourism in Montenegro.