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The Debrief: October 2023

The Debrief: October 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 keep our readers apprised of the latest developments impacting their respective practice areas.

This House – Implemented Legislation

In Romania, a new mobility directive has been transposed into law. “On July 23, 2023, Law No. 222/2023 came into force,” Musat & Asociatii Senior Associate Gabriel Oprea says, highlighting that the law introduces a series of amendments to the law on companies, the law on the trade registry, and certain trade registry registration procedures. Oprea adds that Law No. 222/2023 transposes the EU Mobility Directive “by systematically integrating provisions related to these operations within the national general regulatory framework for corporate matters. Through these regulatory changes, Romania aligns itself with the new consolidated framework introduced at the EU level for cross-border corporate operations with measures ensuring the protection of employees, creditors, and minority shareholders on the domestic market.”

In Poland, “the Council of Ministers has adopted a Regulation on the amount of the minimum wage and the amount of the minimum hourly rate in 2024,” Wolf Theiss Associate Sonia Kurpiel notes, adding that similar to 2023, “the amount of the minimum wage will increase twice next year.” According to Kurpiel, “as of January 1, 2024, the minimum wage under the employment agreement will increase to PLN 4242 (about EUR 915), and as of July 1, 2024, to PLN 4300 (about EUR 927). The respective hourly rate will increase as well, to PLN 27.70 (approximately EUR 6) and from the second half of the year to PLN 28.10 (approximately EUR 6). The minimum hourly rate is applicable to contracts of mandate and service contracts.”

Forgo, Damjanovic & Partners Partner Zsofia Fuzi also notes that “the Hungarian government recently announced some rather important changes regarding solar energy production by household solar power plants. According to the new rules introduced by governmental decree, the Hungarian government lifts the feed-in stop in the case of household solar power plants by extending the possibility of feed-in into the grid the produced but not used electricity.” Fuzi also stresses that “the electricity fed into the grid will be settled under a yearly balance settlement basis, i.e., based on the balance of production and consumption. Those who wish to install new solar panels or extend existing ones can opt for a yearly balance settlement system if they submit their request by September 7, 2023, and finish installing/expanding their panel until January 1, 2026.”  She adds that “for those who cannot take advantage of the yearly balance settlement system, the government announced that they can feed electricity into the grid for a competitive market price, however, the detailed rules have yet to be adopted.”

The Verdict

Musat & Asociatii Partner Iuliana Iacob highlights that the recent decision of Romania’s High Court of Cassation and Justice sheds light on the application and interpretation of the choice of court clauses. One of the questions posed to the court was whether the need for choice of court clauses to be “expressly accepted, in writing, by the other party” requires that such clauses be enshrined in a separate written agreement. “In a nutshell, the absence of such separate written agreements gave rise to a debate regarding the validity of the choice of court clauses, triggering an objection to jurisdiction,” Iacob notes.

“The Court held that consent to choice of court clauses need not be contained in a separate written agreement, but that, in assessing choice of court clauses, domestic courts are required to examine whether the parties have clearly and explicitly expressed their consent,” Iacob points out. “The judgment has a significant practical impact in jurisdictional-related matters and is expected to clarify the formal requirements related to the conclusion of choice of court clauses as well as eliminate any controversy as to the impact of the lack of a separate agreement.”

In the Works

CMS Sofia Managing Partner Kostadin Sirleshtov highlights that “the Bulgarian parliament adopted a decision assigning the Minister of Energy to investigate the terms and conditions under which the Bulgarian Energy Holding – a consolidating state-owned parent company in the energy sector – could acquire up to 20% of the interest in the exploration agreement of oil and natural gas in the Khan Asparuh block in the Black Sea.” Currently, Sirleshtov notes, “the holders of the permit are OMV Petrom and Total. The aim of this step is to allow the Bulgarian state to add equity in its own offshore natural gas resources given the recent discoveries in Turkiye and Romania.”

In addition, Sirleshtov emphasizes that “the Bulgarian government started the fourth tender for the Khan Tervel block for prospecting and exploration of oil and gas offshore.” Meanwhile, on the renewables market, “the Actis-owned Rezolv acquired the rights to develop and implement Bulgaria’s largest solar project named ‘St. George’ with a capacity of 229 megawatts,” he says.

Sirleshtov adds that there are updates with respect to the nuclear sector as well. “The parliament assigned the Minister of Energy to enter into negotiations with the Minister of Energy of Ukraine for the potential sale of two Russian VVER third generation 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactors intended for the unrealized Belene NPP project. Such a potential sale is viewed as the last step in detaching the Bulgarian nuclear sector from Russia,” he says. “Moreover, the Bulgarian Nuclear Safety Agency started the procedure for licensing of Westinghouse’s nuclear fuel since the first supplies of nuclear fuel are envisaged to happen in April 2024.”

Regulators Weigh In

In Romania, there have been updates regarding the public procurement procedure. “The new Order No. 1554/2023, adopted by the National Agency for Public Procurement and published in the Romanian Official Gazette on September 6, 2023, serves as a noteworthy advancement in the standardization of the Romanian tenders,” Musat & Asociatii Managing Associate Ana-Maria Abrudan says. “By elaborating on the standard documentation necessary for public and sectoral public procurement contracts of products, this order aims to construct a transparent and consistent operational environment for all parties involved.”

According to her, “the order brings clarity by segmenting the process into six main areas, ranging from bidder instructions and product specifications to contract types and document templates.” Abrudan believes that “the new order’s focus on uniform requirements is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it streamlines the process for contracting authorities/entities and bidders, reducing the likelihood of ambiguities. On the other hand, its stringent guidelines could limit the actual flexibility, making it more difficult for public authorities to consider certain proposals that diverge from the set templates but might offer innovative or tailored solutions, depending on the particularities of each tender, on a case-by-case basis.”

The Broader Picture

Sirleshtov says that, in the context of the sanctions, the Bulgarian parliament decided to cancel Lukoil’s concession for the operation of the Rosenets oil terminal in Bulgaria as the Bulgarian state will become the operator.

This article was originally published in Issue 10.9 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.

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