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The Buzz in Ukraine: Interview with Serhiy Piontkovsky of Baker & McKenzie

The Buzz in Ukraine: Interview with Serhiy Piontkovsky of Baker & McKenzie

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"The general feeling is that the reforms promised by the new government are proceeding … but slowly," says Serhiy Piontkovsky, Partner at Baker McKenzie in Kyiv.

From a business point of view the main concern remains corruption, Piontkovksy says, noting a general sense that "the government is still not taking fast and effective steps." Piontkovsky concedes that “of course at the institutional level there’s been progress, and many new anti-corruption laws and institutions have been created," and adds "we really hope to see real change come soon in practice."

Piontkovsky emphasizes that "unfortunately the situation in the Ukrainian economy is not so much driven by empirical economic data, but is more politically-dependent, and we have to pay attention to that as well.” Moreover, he says, "unfortunately the geopolitical situation has a direct effect on business and on the economy of Ukraine. We can not just focus on business and economy and stop paying attention to what’s going on, because that has a direct effect on the exchange rate, for instance, on foreign investment, on privatization … so it’s all quite interconnected."

Piontkovsky notes that, at least at the moment, business continues apace. "From my point of view we see quite a lot of project finance by international financial institutions like the EBRD, IFC, and so on. For instance if you look at the work we’re doing as a law firm, previously we had more private transactions, and of course we still have more private than public or international donor matters, but the share of legal assignments that is connected to international support by various international financial institutions is very significant, and that’s the difference from two years ago. Also we anticipate generating more work next year on compliance issues in view of recent judicial reform."

Finally, turning to developments in the legal industry itself, Piontkovsky points to the recent changes to the Constitution limiting the ability to represent clients in various Ukrainian courts only to members of the Ukrainian Bar. Otherwise, he says, there have been no major recent departures or arrivals or firm-closings of significance, and he reports no real lay-offs in the market. "To be more optimistic," he concludes, "I feel that the legal market has come to a certain level of stability and everyone is waiting for growth."

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