The two major issues in Poland at the moment, according to Agnieszka Pytlas, Managing Partner of Penteris in Warsaw, are the lockdown necessitated by the second wave of the Covid-19 crisis and the ongoing protests against a ruling by the country’s top court in October that amounted to a near-total ban on abortion.
Indeed, there’s some overlap, she says. “The protests are still continuing in Poland, and with the second lockdown in place, the Prime Minister is asking protesters to move the demonstrations online.” She shakes her head and smiles. “I don’t know how that would work, exactly, but that’s what’s being proposed.”
From a legal perspective, the greater problem is the second wave and another lockdown,” Pytlas reports. “They’re calling it a partial or soft lockdown, because they’re closing shopping malls, leaving only grocery stores and pharmacies open until the end of November.” She’s paying close attention. “It’s important for me because my practice is particularly focused on retail, especially on the tenant/landlord side.” And, she says, there’s not much information available for those businesses directly affected. “On Wednesday the Prime Minister said that they would close the malls on Saturday and promised that the details would be delivered on Thursday. It’s now Friday and they’re still not published. So our clients are calling us desperate for guidance, since they go into effect tomorrow. How can you prepare your business when you don’t know if you’ll be open or not? So my role now is to follow the Prime Minister’s press conferences carefully and try to give the best heads-up advice we can to our clients, and tell them what the updates are.”
It’s suggested that the many client calls for assistance must be good for her team’s bottom line. “That may be true to a certain extent,” she says, “but I’d much prefer to have a positive kind of business, based on the industry moving forward.” Still, Pytlas adds, “it’s good to be needed, and to be able to help, especially now.” She reflects. “It’s very true that this is a time when lawyers are needed. Clients don’t even know how to find out what the wording of the new regulations are, even if they wanted to. And getting it from press conferences is ridiculous. Also, helping out with things like lease negotiations, rent reductions, and so on, is similarly challenging now, but we do our best to provide on-topic expertise about different schemes that can help save money in various situations.”
The confusion about the regulations of the upcoming lockdown isn’t the only source of frustration, she says, and she remarks that the government has not been consistent on how the lockdown will be crafted. “I don’t believe a second lockdown needs to be as strict as it is,” Pytlas explains, “What you can see is that the government is closing stores in shopping malls, even though similar stores of the same size on the High Street are left open, which is really difficult to understand. I know they want to limit the number of people in public areas in malls and implement social distancing, but decisions like these really frustrate clients.”
Finally, turning back to the subject of the street protests, she admits to being encouraged by what she’s seeing. “It’s a positive sign seeing so many young people on the streets exercising their right to freedom of speech. It says a lot for democracy,” she says, with obvious pride.