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The Buzz from Macedonia: Interview with Valentin Pepeljugoski

North Macedonia
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“Let’s start with the bad,” said Valentin Pepeljugoski, the Managing Partner of the Pepeljugoski Law Firm in Macedonia, who reported that the strike of Skopje court administration employees that began at the end of May and still continues, is “not good for bar members.”

The strike, which started when administration employees were not included in the recent 35% salary increase received by judges, public prosecutors, and officials in the public prosecutor’s offices, is, according to Pepeljugoski, “really bad for the rule of law, for clients, etc.”  He concedes, however, that the salaries of court administration “are really very low” — he called them "beneath human dignity” — and he emphasized that, “if you ask me I fully approve of the administration.” Matters considered “urgent” which can’t easily be postponed — including requests for injunctions, bankruptcies, and IP matters — are being heard, but the solo practitioners and smaller law offices that focus their practices heavily on litigation are being really hurt by the delay in most matters. Business law firms like his, Pepeljugoski says, are better able to weather the storm.

Otherwise business in Macedonia is as good as it can be in the circumstances, Pepeljugoski says, “although the political situation is not so good.” He refers especially to the energy sector as strong, as the country’s Competition Authority has begun a process of reviewing agreements in the sector very carefully, providing substantial work for lawyers. The Macedonian energy market is not a “free market,” according to Pepeljugoski, with only state-owned enterprises able to purchase energy from suppliers, who are often badly-positioned to sue because of badly-drafted agreements. He also notes that the banking sector is strong.

Interestingly, he refers to an ongoing fight for market share among two trash collecting companies, which spills over regularly into the courts.

Turning to the legal market in Macedonia, Pepeljugoski points out that there are no “big international firms” in the market, as “our law does not allow foreign lawyers to set up classical law firms here as founders,” though he notes that several regional law  firms specialized in the former Yugoslavia have “consultant" offices in Skopje. The market is fairly stable, and a few local firms have sprung up recently, started by 2-3 young lawyers, but in his opinion the traditional firms still dominate the market.

Finally, Pepeljugoski noted, a new Civil Code is in the works and expected to be enacted sometime next year. “For me it is not necessary,” he sighed, “because we already have the the law.” He said the decision to create a new Civil Code in the country is following “a trend in CEE,” and said, “for me, it’s not a positive one.” He sighed. “It creates problems when you’re always amending, always revising."