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In short, an NFT (non-fungible token) is a set of data stored on a blockchain (a digital ledger), that certifies a digital asset as unique and thus non-fungible. Assets can be tangible (real estate) or intangible (IP rights).

YES - In its previous case law, the court has recognised the importance of hyperlinks for the operation of the World Wide Web and for freedom of speech. On these grounds, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) generously allowed the use of links to make third-party content accessible via one's own website.

In July, new Arbitration and Mediation Rules of the Vienna International Arbitration Centre ("VIAC" and "VIAC Rules") entered into force. The revised VIAC Rules will apply to arbitrations commenced after 30 June 2021.

Annual reports make up a fundamental part of many regional CEE law firms’ marketing strategies, providing those firms with an annual opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise in a particular area, their geographic footprints, and their ownership and facility with the research and technological tools and manpower necessary for the production of such comprehensive projects.

CMS' Malgorzata Surdek-Janicka has been appointed as Vice-President of the International Court of Arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris. Aside from Surdek-Janicka, 33 lawyers from CEE were appointed as members and alternate members of the court.

Blockchain technology has – so far – not lead to a transfer of the world's land registers onto this technology or to a "tokenization" of title (documents). The only significant exception in this respect is Georgia where a purchaser's title to real property can be registered by execution of a smart contract.

The Supreme Administrative Court is gradually granting more rights to environmental organisations (EOs) in nature conservation procedures. Following a December 2020 ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court regarding the party status of EOs (for further details please see "New ruling expands environmental organisations' rights in nature conservation procedures"), the Supreme Administrative Court remains on course with its pro-EO case law. In recent months, the court has issued several more interesting rulings that seem to strengthen EOs' position in nature conservation proceedings.

A law implementing, among others, Directive (EU) 2019/878 amending Directive (EU) 2013/36 (Capital Requirements Directive - CRD V) has been passed by the Austrian Parliament and Federal Council, and has been published in the Federal Gazette. CRD V (as part of the package together with Regulation (EU) 2019/876 amending Regulation (EU) 575/2013 – CRR II) aims to close regulatory gaps in the existing financial regulatory framework and, while adding prudential measures as to capital requirements, requires certain entities to comply with new licensing obligations.

The increasing use of electric vehicles (EVs) in Austria means the supporting infrastructure requires constant development. The Austrian federal government program 2020-2024 envisages expanding the Austrian network of charging points for alternative fuels as an essential pillar of its drive towards implementing sustainable mobility solutions. In September 2020, the Austrian government followed through with its agenda by proposing the Austrian Renewable Energy Expansion Act (Erneuerbaren-Ausbau-Gesetz, EAG), which includes an amendment of the Austrian Act on Uniform Standards for Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Developments (Bundesgesetz zur Festlegung einheitlicher Standards beim Infrastrukturaufbau für alternative Kraftstoffe, BGFS). The EAG has recently been approved by the government and is now subject to discussions/approval by the Austrian parliament. The cornerstone of the amendment, which is expected to enter into force in the second half of 2021, involves establishing a public charging point register so that EV drivers can locate publicly accessible charging points when they need them and obtain other relevant information.

The Vienna Stock Exchange was founded in 1771, during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa. Initially launched as a market for state-issued bonds – only bonds, bills of exchange, and foreign currencies could be traded – it expanded rapidly. In 1818, the Austrian central bank – which had itself been founded only two years earlier – became the first joint-stock company to be listed on the exchange (and one of the first shareholders was Ludwig van Beethoven, who bought eight shares in 1819). In 1863, the Suez Canal Company had become the first foreign company to be listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange, and in 1865, there was a further foreign listing with premium bonds issued to fund Turkish railway lines (“Turkenlose”). When the Frankfurter Bankverein applied for a listing of the Turkenlose bonds on the VSE, the Exchange Chamber decided to introduce rules for the admission of foreign securities, and thus, in 1873, the “Italian bond” became the first official foreign listing by means of a formal application. In December 1997, the Vienna Stock Exchange Chamber was merged with the Austrian Futures and Options Exchange to form a new exchange operating company, Wiener Borse AG, and in subsequent years the business spectrum of the Vienna Stock Exchange broadened to include market data dissemination and index calculation as well as IT services and central securities depository services.

The global COVID-19 crisis has led to a significant change in the field of M&A, both in Austria, and worldwide. In my more-than-twenty years of experience, I have not seen anything change the Austrian legal market so incredibly. Starting in March 2020, as a first step, several transactions in Austria were at least temporarily put on hold. As a result, the total number of transactions decreased in 2020. However, this trend was not unique to Austria, but represents a worldwide paradigm shift caused by increased uncertainty about the future of business.

The COVID-19 crisis continues to plague much of Europe. To get an overview of its effects across CEE – both on investment in the region and on the legal industry itself – we reached out to the members of Pontes the CEE Lawyers legal alliance, a Regional Sponsor at the upcoming Dealer’s Choice International Law Firm Summit.

As does every crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an influx of high-profile litigation matters. A significant disparity has emerged during the crisis: Larger litigation departments – like our firm – are extremely busy, while some solo practitioners are suffering severely from the economic downturn.

The first rumors of a new infectious disease outbreak in late December 2019 initially only drew modest attention. Soon it became clear that the world had underestimated the spreading pandemic, and, despite Austria’s distance from the region of origin in Asia, by March 2020, the spread of COVID-19 in Europe had become a focus of concern. As hospitals struggled to deal with increasing numbers of coronavirus cases, governments throughout Europe – including Austria – imposed lockdowns that brought society as we know it to an abrupt halt. Overnight, European cities became ghost towns, with shops and services shuttered. Revenues vanished and, through no fault of their own, businesses had to face a difficult financial reality.

Austria – in particular Vienna, the capital and second largest German speaking city in the world, as well as Linz and Graz – is conveniently placed at crossroads of international trade routes providing excellent access to major European economies in all four directions.

Lately, the effects of COVID-19 have caused a significant surge in interest by high net-worth individuals (HNWIs) on global migration, as political stability and safety, access to well-functioning healthcare and education systems, and the ability to maintain a high standard of living became even more important.

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