Needless to say, business in the European Union is going through some turbulent times. How this is affecting the CEE region and how business in the region will adapt to this never-ending uncertainty is the million-dollar question that everyone is asking at the beginning of 2019.
A quick look at the daily news reveals that the EU is currently consumed by Brexit. It is clear that business will be considerably affected by the expected delay of Brexit caused by politics. British companies have already responded to this political uncertainty. According to the Institute of Directors, 16% of British companies have either activated relocation plans or are planning to do so, and another 13% are considering relocation.
But Brexit is hardly the only problem in Europe. For instance, Italy, a neighboring country to the CEE region, fell into recession in the final three months of 2018 for the first time since 2013. While this may have been expected and foreseen by financial analysts, it will still have an important impact on CEE, as Italy is one of the biggest trade partners of the region.
These two situations in the EU – combined with an unexpected slowdown in Germany, EU’s biggest economy – could bring significant uncertainty into CEE as well.
Still, and despite this negativity, I believe that we need to use this unique opportunity to our advantage. As a sub-region of CEE with a population of more than 20 million, the Adriatic part of the CEE region has the knowledge and experience to offer a safe haven for relocation-seeking companies. Such clients often need tailor-made services rather than traditional ones. Consultants therefore need to adapt to attract businesses into this region, because they will not come without proper incentives. The needs of modern clients often go beyond the limits of the territory and the laws of one country and only a consultant with in-depth knowledge, expertise, and experience throughout the region will have the possibility to prosper and do business.
As managing partner of one of the biggest law firms in the Adriatic region, I am conscious of the importance of always staying one step ahead of the others. Law firms are already aware of globalization and have been dealing with it for quite some time now. But in this particularly unstable situation that the EU finds itself in at the beginning of 2019, which is set to continue for quite some time, law firms will have to have a unique ability to offer clients something new to attract their interest to work in the region. While individual countries are too small to make a greater impact, a partnership of all Adriatic countries can compete among other bigger countries or regions in the EU to attract relocating businesses. Clients entering our region demand one point of entry to this market of 20 million people, and they are seeking centralized legal advice which can only be provided by the most successful and progressive law firms in the region. Such law firms need to have local experts as well as the infrastructure and possibility to offer a platform for European and worldwide exchange of legal skill, opinions, experience, and knowledge, but still tailor-made for each client. Services offered by law firms need to be technically and digitally supported, setting standards that are higher than the ones clients are accustomed to at home. The digitalization of services gives firms a competitive edge and is one of the prime focuses of law firms attracting relocating businesses into the Adriatic region.
It is not a question of how to do it, but rather of who will do it best. This region has been defined by decades of crisis and now has a unique opportunity to add value to the innovations fostered in these past times. Only those law firms in the region which collaborate proactively, connected with excellent professionalism, can execute fresh ideas in the corporate projects of firms looking to relocate into CEE. Law firms must be able to leave the comfort zone of national jurisdictions and deal with the complexity of the cross-border advising, remaining at the same very high level as they were while working within their own countries. Our law firm rose to the occasion by establishing the Adriatic Legal Network to deal with the ever-changing situation in the EU and in the region.
By Uros Cop, Managing Partner, Law Firm Miro Senica and Attorneys, Ltd.
This Article was originally published in Issue 6.2 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.