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A specific form of cooperation was introduced in Austria in 2018 and will become effective on January 1, 2019: Upon the taxpayer’s request, an enterprise may opt for a “horizontal monitoring” procedure. This new law was introduced after a pilot project in which internationally renowned enterprises such as Red Bull, Shell Austria, and Infineon Technologies participated (although whether these enterprises will also participate in the new “horizontal monitoring” procedure is not yet known).

On October 29, 2018, leading Austrian law firms Dorda, Eisenberger & Herzog, Herbst Kinsky, PHH, Schoenherr, SCWP Schindhelm, and Wolf Theiss announced their joint launch of the “Legal Tech Hub Vienna”: a non-profit forum for LegalTech companies, start-ups, and other legal market participants to identify innovation potential and work together to implement technological tools appearing ever-more-rapidly on the legal market.

No individual, no business, and no country is immune from the threat of cybercrime. The increasingly successful and complex economies of CEE countries are no exception to this rule. In fact, for both historical and political reasons, CEE is at particular peril.

While globalization and digitalization have increased the risk of violations that affect thousands of consumers, several EU member states — including Austria — do not yet offer class action lawsuits. The EU Commission has therefore proposed a draft directive to allow representative actions for the protection of collective interests of consumers as part of its “New Deal for Consumers.”

On July 9, 2018, the German and Austrian competition authorities published joint guidelines regarding the transaction value thresholds of their respective merger regimes.

In the past, interest escalation clauses in loan agreements in Austria commonly had variable interest rates, based on a reference interest rate such as EURIBOR or LIBOR and an appropriate interest mark-up. When reference interest rates started to fall below zero, the question whether banks had to pass on negative interest rates to their borrowers in case of loan agreements where no floor had been set became the subject of great discussion. In addition, loan agreements in which a “zero floor” for reference interest rates had been implemented were contested as well.

The widespread perception remains that the real estate market in CEE is undervalued and continues to offer exciting opportunities for investors. It would seem this is with good reason and early signs suggest that this year we may approach record levels of activity in the sector.

A new buzzword has reached the Real Estate world and its service providers, including the legal community: “PropTech.” PropTech – or “Property Technology” – is simply shorthand for various IT applications that are specifically designed to address the needs of the real estate industry.

With its National Data Protection Amendment Act 2018 (“DSG 2018”) enacted well before the May 25th 2018 deadline, Austria is considered to be one of the EU leaders regarding the implementation of the GDPR. To be precise, the DSG 2018 was implemented in May, 2017, shortly before Austria’s national elections took place. The consequence of Austria’s attempt to play a pioneering role is that the DSG 2018 was rushed, and thus, at least in some parts, extremely difficult to read – and it fails to take advantage of the majority of the permitted GDPR derogations.

On January 4, 2018 CEE Legal Matters reported that Schoenherr had advised BUWOG AG and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer had advised Vonovia SE on Vonovia’s voluntary public takeover bid of BUWOG. The takeover offer placed the enterprise value of BUWOG at around EUR 5.2 billion. We reached out to several of the individuals involved in the deal for information: Christian Herbst, Partner, Schoenherr and Thomas Zottl, Partner, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer 

Tim Pfister, Managing Partner at Knoetzl in Vienna, is an American lawyer with over 35 years of experience. In addition to his management responsibilities at Knoetzl, Pfister acts as counsel, advising clients and colleagues on New York law matters and regarding conflicts in international transactions, cross-border financings, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, corporate crisis management, and corporate strategic planning. He moved to Austria in 2013 and was a founder of Knoetzl in 2016.  

There are only a few days left until the GDPR comes into force on May 25, 2018. Despite having had a two-year grace period before the new regime becomes effective, companies all over the European Community and their advisors are struggling to meet that deadline. We at Dorda are as well, despite having introduced a nine-person GDPR implementation project team – which is relatively huge for a country the size of Austria.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation is, according to the EU-hosted GDPR website, “the most important change in data privacy regulation in the past 20 years.” The Act, which was approved by the EU Parliament on April 14, 2016 and will become fully effective on May 25, 2018, was designed “to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe, to protect and empower all EU citizens’ data privacy, and to reshape the way organizations across the region approach data privacy.”

Unlike those of its neighbours to the East, Austria’s economy was allowed to operate free of communist interference, allowing the country to hit well above its weight, comparatively-speaking. Thus, although Austria is the 11th biggest country in CEE in population, with 8.7 million people, it has the third largest economy, behind only Russia and Poland. And these days, with the global financial crisis now firmly in the rearview mirror, the country is once again able to capitalize on its happy geographical positioning and historical relationship with the former members of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Widely recognized as an entry point for investors seeking opportunities in Eastern Europe and as a hub for the region, Austria is home to a large number of regional General Counsel and Heads of Legal. We reached out to a number of them to get their perspectives on this critical gateway to CEE.

Austria is definitely lagging behind in terms of Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) penetration: According to recent data of the FTTH Council Europe, only one country worldwide has a worse penetration rate than Austria, while other sources suggest there are two countries below Austria. For this reason many initiatives have been implemented on municipal and provincial levels to provide Austrian households and undertakings with high-speed Internet access in parts of the country where a purely commercial assessment would not justify such investments. Obviously this is not yet enough.

The winners of the 2017 CEE Deal of the Year Awards were announced at the first ever CEE Legal Matters Deal of the Year Awards Banquet last night in Prague. The biggest smiles in the joyous and music-filled celebration of CEE lawyering, perhaps, were on the faces of Partners from Avellum and Sayenko Kharenko, which, along with White & Case and Latham & Watkins, won the award both for Ukrainian Deal of the Year and CEE Deal of the Year for their work on the 2017 Ukraine Eurobond Issue (a story initially reported by CEE Legal Matters on October 2, 2017).

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