The Aleksić and Associates Law Firm practices all legal areas, and its clients include a number of leading banks, insurance companies, large corporations and foreign investors
We are talking to the CEO and Managing Partner of the Aleksic and Associates Law Firm, Nemanja Aleksic about his office’s expertise, and the characteristics of the Serbian legal framework which are important to business clients. Which areas of law does your firm practice?
› Our law office represents clients in the field of commercial law, civil law/family law, inheritance law, labour law, criminal law, banking law, administrative law, constitutional law, international law…
How many members does your team have and what is their expertise?
› The Aleksic and Associates Law Firm has its own offices spanning around 1,600 square metres, and we currently have 158 employees. The firm itself is divided into departments, and each department – civil, commercial, executive, criminal and labour – has a head of the department who also has a deputy, and who all, together with Nemanja Aleksić, PhD, make the office collegium along with three special advisors.
Which legal issues do foreign investors usually ask your help for?
› Most of the issues that foreign companies need help with fall under corporate law, i.e. advisory and representation services in the process of setting up and managing companies, banks, insurance companies, leasing companies, and factoring companies, including mergers and acquisitions. Also, a substantial number of issues are related to copyright law and industrial property rights (protection of trademarks and patents), public procurement procedures and privatizations of large state-owned companies, as well as consultation and representation in front of state bodies. A segment, which has been gaining on importance, is foreign investments and public-private partnerships, and especially investments in energy and infrastructure facilities.
Which of your cases would you like to single out as the most complex?
› I would like to single out the following as the most complex cases that our firm has worked on:
Transferring (assignment, cession) of non-performing claims to SPVs, the required analyses and drafting of relevant acts and assessments especially with the view of classification and management of risks in accordance with the Decree on Classification of Bank Balance and Off-Balance Assets and the Decree on Managing Bank’s Risks, as well as tax and other related regulation, including representing SPVs in front of courts and other proceedings;
Legal due diligence review – preliminary check of legal and financial status of a domestic bank owned by shareholders from the EU;
Harmonization of all contracts and General Business Terms of large domestic banks which operate under the EU banking groups with the amendments to the Law on Protection of Financial Services Users and the Law on Payment Services.
Your office is well-known for representing banks in collection of receivables. What is your firm’s advantage in this respect?
› Our firm’s advantage lies in the fact that we can offer to our clients a complete set of services and legal assistance in all stages of collection of receivables, as well as in any other area of law. Our years of experience in representing clients in out-of-court and court proceedings, and providing consultant and legal opinions have resulted in collaboration with most of the leading banks and financial institutions. Also, what sets our law firm apart from others is having the latest technical, technological, security and software solutions which are necessary for us to keep up with our clients, primarily banks and other financial institutions.
To what degree is the Serbian legal framework compliant with the European and Anglo-Saxon standards in terms of economy?
› The harmonization of the Serbian legal framework with the European and Anglo-Saxon standards in the field of economy is carried out, first and foremost, through the EU integration process. On 29th April, 2008, in Luxembourg, Serbia signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement which, after it was ratified by all EU member states, came into force on 1st September, 2013. The candidate countries are obligated to accept the EU’s Acquis in its entirety before they can join the EU, i.e. they need to include the EU regulation into their national legislation and implement it as soon as they join the Union. These rules and regulations are divided into 35 different chapters of the EU’s Acquis, generally known as negotiation chapters. Serbia has opened a total of 6 out of 35 chapters in its accession talks with the EU, with the biggest emphasis put on chapters 23 and 24. By the end of 2016, and as a result of the amendments to its existing laws, Serbia has managed to achieve a significant level of harmonization between its laws and the EU’s Acquis in terms of company law, intellectual property laws, telecommunications law, copyright and related laws, accounting laws, public information laws, and advertising and media laws which all come under our firm’s expertise. Serbia is a country where European
continental law is implemented. The Anglo-Saxon standards are accepted into the EU’s Acquis, and through the harmonization process, they are finding their way into the Serbian legal framework. However, some important legal institutes are taken directly from the Anglo-Saxon law like prosecution investigation in criminal law, and reorganization of bankruptcy debtors in commercial law. On 20th June, 2017, the European Union opened two more chapters in accession negotiations with Serbia. These are chapter 7 (intellectual property rights) and chapter 29 (customs union). The customs procedures have been singificantly expedited already, while both areas have been substantially harmonized with the European regulation. With these two, recently opened chapters, Serbia will have opened a total of ten chapters in the accession talks with the EU, with two of them already temporarily closed. The EU has announced the opening of new chapters in the second half of 2017.
In which areas do you see the need to further improve both legal framework and legal practice?
› I see the need for further improvement of both legal framework and practice primarily in continuation of efforts on harmonization of the Republic of Serbia’s laws with the EU’s Acquis through opening of new chapters concering the free movement of goods, labour and capital, the right to taking up business residence and freedom of providing services, public procurement, competition policies, financial services, energy, taxes and financial control. In the said areas we need to facilitate access to our market and investment of capital for the EU investors, which include acquiring property rights on real estate, primarily agricultural land and facilities, through changing the existing and passing of new regulation, while guaranteeing legal security for their investments and providing fast and efficient legal protection in court proceedings, in front of administrative bodies and other state bodies of the Republic of Serbia, territorial autonomies, or local self-governments. In practice, we need to further work on reducing piracy and counterfeit products on the market. Last year, foreign investors invested close to 2 billion euros in Serbia. State subsidies for new jobs are one of the incentives available to investors. However, a lot still needs to be done in this area in order to attract more foreign investors, including having a more efficient judicial system, preventing corruption and removing administrative obstacles to investments. The news that foreign companies will be able to own up to a 49% share in our defence industry speaks volumes about positive changes in the business environment, and this was made possible owing to the relevant law amendments prepared by the Serbian Defence Ministry.