“From the perspective of the Austrian people the government is doing a great job,“ says Raimund Cancola, Partner at Taylor Wessing in Vienna. “We’re really lucky that the current coalition is working in unison – they’re quite complementary. Almost nobody has any substantial negative remarks over their handling of the crisis."
Cancola reports that the government took steps to get ahead of the crisis early and is currently “striking a fine balance between protecting public health and the economy.“ He describes the government's approach as “very nuanced with the health of all the citizens being a clear priority.“ He also reports that Austria is subsidizing parts of the economy in an effort to protect businesses and jobs. “This goes against the budget deficit, but it seems that keeping a balanced budget is a pipe dream, as it is in many other countries right now.“
Furthermore, Austria has recently announced that some of the restrictions that are currently in place are likely to be reduced after Easter. “It is likely that some smaller shops will be allowed to reopen and businesses that employ proper protective measures, like face-masks and gloves, will be back in play.“ Currently, he says, Austria has taken steps similar to Germany when it comes to protecting employees. “The country has established a short-time work scheme which subsidizes enterprises,“ he says. “This allows employers to keep workers on, thus preventing layoffs. This program must be applied for and many already have."
Of course, the announced intention to relax some measures is contingent on the number of infections going down. “The government is practicing cautious optimism, and if current trends persist, relaxations are likely,“ Cancola states. All of the other governmental efforts are aimed at “keeping businesses and the economy liquid – we’ve yet to see concrete post-crisis plans that will deal with revitalizing the economy.“
“These are tough times for law firms too, particularly larger ones,“ Cancola says. "Corporate transactions are slowing down, apart from those that were in their final stages of completion and the economic reality of which was not altered by the COVID -19 crisis.“
"However,“ Cancola adds, “the number of distressed M&A deals as well as commercial and dispute work are expected to increase in the back half of the year.“ According to him, in those areas at least, “a huge volume of work is to be expected.“ And Cancola states that labor and employment practices are “hot right now“ as is IP/IT, “especially concerning data protection matters."
"Overall," he says, "it’s still too early to have a clear picture, and developments over the coming 2-3 months at least will hopefully bring more clarity.“