The long-awaited Commercial Court finally being functional and the anticipated reforms on minimum wages and the verification and confiscation of unjustified assets are the key talking points in Kosovo, according to Deloitte Kosova Legal Manager Ardian Rexha.
"The major development in Kosovo is related to the establishment of a specialized Commercial Court," Rexha begins. "The law came into force in February 2022 and, after a rather long process of nominating judges and adopting a relevant framework, we finally have a functional Commercial Court." According to him, just recently – on August 1 – the court received its first submission. "This is great news for the private sector and will likely improve the investment climate, as its main purpose is to resolve complex commercial disputes, as well as administrative cases involving private players in a more efficient manner," Rexha points out. "In the past, it took years to settle commercial disputes. We hope that the new court will be an essential step forward in changing that."
However, Rexha says there is still a lot of work to be done, "since so far only seven judges have been appointed to the court's chamber of first instance. That chamber, on the other hand, has already received close to 7,000 case referrals, meaning that each judge has to adjudicate almost 1,000 cases at the moment." He says this has already created a backlog – judges have to make decisions within very tight timelines introduced by the law, especially with regard to interim injunctions. "Consequently, the Judicial Council has announced further openings for judges and support staff, to expedite the process," he notes.
"Another important update is a draft law on minimum wages," Rexha points out. "We expect that a new law introducing a non-taxable minimum wage of EUR 250 will be adopted soon by the Assembly, which will be a significant improvement compared to the previous amount," he adds, noting that the proposal was followed by protests from war veterans, demanding for their benefits to be included in this update. "Around 100,000 employees are expected to benefit from the new minimum wage," he points out.
"In Kosovo, there is also a draft law on the verification and confiscation of unjustified assets," Rexha says, adding that the law will establish a new institution – a bureau to verify and request the confiscation of illegally obtained assets. "Corruption is an issue of serious concern, therefore, in general, the proposal has been welcomed by the public," he says, "yet, despite its justified purpose, there are concerns about the law shifting the burden of proof to owners, its retroactive effect, the independence of the Bureau, as well as rule of law standards and respect for human rights."
From the business perspective, Rexha highlights that micro-finance institutions' transformation has been one of the main topics in the financial industry. "Deloitte and the International Finance Corporation are advising the government in drafting sound legislation to transform NGO micro-finance institutions into for-profit corporations," he notes. "Additionally, the IT sector is doing well despite the global challenges – many companies from the EU and the US are opening branches in Kosovo and providing outsourcing services for other countries." Still, Rexha says that, "similarly to many other countries, the high inflation rate and the emigration of highly-skilled professionals are big concerns for Kosovo, reaching unprecedented levels of late."