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The Debrief: March 2023

The Debrief: March 2023

The Debrief
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In The Debrief, our Practice Leaders across CEE share updates on recent and upcoming legislation, consider the impact of recent court decisions, showcase landmark projects, and stay up to date with the latest developments impacting their respective practice areas. 

This House – Implemented Legislation

2023 was off to a busy start in both Poland and Bulgaria. “The new year brought a long-awaited revolution for medical device advertising in Poland,” NGL Legal Junior Associate Paulina Roslon-Horosz says. “As of January 1, 2023, new regulations for medical device advertising provided by the Medical Devices Act of April 7, 2022, are in force.” According to her, the changes include entirely new requirements for advertising to the public, obligations to keep information on advertisements, as well as rules for advertising activities and their content. “The new provisions also stipulate high financial penalties for violations of advertising requirements – even up to approximately EUR 422,000,” she says.

“January 2023 was a remarkable month for the energy sector in Bulgaria,” CMS Sofia Managing Partner Kostadin Sirleshtov continues. “In January 2023, Bulgaria started retroactively applying the regulation on an emergency intervention to address the high energy prices, which was published in the Official Journal of the EU on October 7, 2022. These revenue caps will apply from December 1, 2022, until June 30, 2023, and have little effect on the producers due to the mild winter and the low prices of natural gas,” he notes. 

This House – Reached an Accord

Sirleshtov also draws attention to amendments to energy legislation that have recently been published, in addition to the legislation that has already been enacted. “Following a reasonable veto imposed by the Bulgarian president and its acceptance by the Parliament, the amendments to the Energy Act allowing for faster deployment of battery storage were also published,” he says. “These amendments also streamlined the development of new renewable energy projects by increasing the threshold for licensing projects from 5 megawatts to 20 megawatts. The amendments are allowing the Bulgarian transmission system operator to have more flexibility in providing grid connection agreements by allowing for the parallel development of the transmission grid and investment projects.”

This House – Under Review

Wolf Theiss Counsel Agnieszka Nowak-Blaszczak highlights the recent labor law-related amendments in Poland. “On February 8, 2023, the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament passed amendments to the Labor Code implementing the Work-Life Balance Directive as well as the Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU,” she notes. 

According to her, “some of these amendments are fundamental. For example, the burden to terminate fixed-term employment contracts will be increased as the requirements for terminating fixed-term contracts will be aligned with those for open-ended contracts. Employers will be required to indicate the reason justifying the termination of a fixed-term contract. Currently, this is not required. In addition, if the employee is represented by a company trade union, the employer will need to inform the trade union about the intent to terminate the contract indicating the reason for termination. Moreover, if an employee decides to appeal against the termination arguing that it was unlawful and unjustified, the employee will have the right to claim reinstatement or compensation.”

“Although the legislative process has not yet been completed, HR departments should keep it on their radar,” Nowak-Blaszczak notes. “It will be prudent to already start reviewing and adjusting internal regulations and template documents, as the amendments introduce a number of significant new rights for employees, as well as restrictions and new obligations on the employers’ part.”

This House – The Latest Draft

Finally, Roslon-Horosz highlights that, in Poland, discussions are underway regarding some crucial updates to legislation in the field of Life Sciences. According to her, in January 2023, new draft rules were announced concerning medical device and dietary supplement advertising. “In January 2023, a new version of the Draft Regulation of the Minister of Health on Medical Device Advertising was published,” Roslon-Horosz says, adding that “the draft is intended to be a clarification of the requirements for conducting medical device advertising adopted at the statutory level.”

Roslon-Horosz clarifies that, compared to the previous version of April 7, 2022, under the new draft law “the scope of the mandatory data provided in the advertisement was reduced, the content of the warnings was changed, and the obligation to provide information on the benefits received in connection with the advertisement was abandoned.”

As for the draft rules for dietary supplement advertising, Roslon-Horosz says that, “in January, the amendments to the Food and Nutrition Safety Act have been announced and the draft is currently at the opinion stage.” According to her, the draft includes, inter alia, a ban on misleading advertising, mandatory messages and prohibited elements in dietary supplement advertising, and restrictions on the manners and places of advertising. “The draft also provides for the adoption of a mark confirming the quality and safety of a dietary supplement,” she notes.

The Verdict

OPL Gunnercooke Head of Employment and Labor Zsofia Olah highlights a notable labor-related dispute in Hungary recently. “The Hungarian Supreme Court made a significant decision in a discrimination-related employment case,” she explains. “It held that participating in a strike actively or by declaring agreement with the claims of the strike forms part of a free political opinion. Therefore, such participation in a strike cannot qualify as a valid ground for termination, not even under probation, when the employer need not provide a reason for termination with immediate effect.”

In the Works

Sirleshtov also emphasizes the recent progress made in energy-related project development in Bulgaria: “on January 12, 2023, the Bulgarian Parliament, prior to the upcoming general elections scheduled for April 2, 2023, passed a decision requiring the caretaker government to initiate negotiations with the government of the US for the construction of two new AP1000 Westinghouse units at the existing site of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant.” In the same month, he notes, “Bulgaria also hosted a leading international event on small modular nuclear reactors, with the attendance of all leading international vendors.”

Additionally, Sirleshtov says that “on January 26, 2023, the Bulgarian government extended – with an additional term of 15 years – the concession agreement of Petroceltic for Block Kavarna East, offshore Bulgaria, thus expecting additional indigenous production of natural gas from the Black Sea shelf.”

In Related News

Lastly, Olah points out that certain Hungarian companies are following the worldwide trend of exploring the possibility of reducing the workweek. According to her, after the four-day working week pilot trial which took place in the UK – where two large Hungarian companies, Magyar Telekom and Libri-Bookline, also participated – “Magyar Telekom now announced extending the pilot project and started a second six-month phase on February 1, 2023.” 

Thank you to our Practice Leader contributors for this issue: 
  • Agnieszka Nowak-Blaszczak, Counsel, Wolf Theiss
  • Kostadin Sirleshtov, Managing Partner, CMS Sofia
  • Paulina Roslon-Horosz, Junior Associate, NGL Legal
  • Zsofia Olah, Head of Employment and Labor, OPL Gunnercooke
This article was originally published in Issue 10.2 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.