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CEE Legal Matters readers will likely be familiar with Patricia Gannon as one of the founders of Karanovic & Partners. Since her withdrawal from the firm (reported by CEE Legal Matters on September 21, 2020), Gannon ran her own "holistic strategic advisory business" (as reported on October 12, 2020) and, recently, she announced she is working on a new social media app for lawyers – Platforum 9. We caught up with her to learn more about her new project.

With a population of approximately 2.8 million inhabitants, Albania’s economy is mostly composed of SMEs. To a large extent the financial sector is driven by commercial banks, however, in recent years, thanks also to extensive regulation by the central bank (Bank of Albania – BoA), non-bank financial institutions (NBFIs) have picked up a significant portion of the market.

“The genesis of Albania’s EU accession talks dates back to June 2003, when Albania, alongside other Western Balkan countries, was identified as a potential candidate for EU membership,” explains Deloitte Legal Local Legal Partner Sabina Lalaj. While Hoxha, Memi & Hoxha Partner Eris Hoxha points out that Albania was a candidate country since 2014, official membership negotiations were opened only on March 25, 2020. According to Kalo & Associates Co-Managing Partner Aigest Milo, “the next step is for the first Inter-Governmental Conference to be held (presumably during the first semester of 2022),” but Hoxha says “no specific date has been determined yet.”

As one of the next wave candidates for membership in the European Union, Albania went a long distance in the harmonization of its legal framework with the acquis communautaire in recent years. The most recent country progress report of the European Commission, issued as part of the 2020 Enlargement Package for the Western Balkans, recognized the legislative efforts of the country to align its legal framework to EU requirements and to enhance the country’s ability to assume the obligations of membership.Albania first ventured into the legal regulation of antitrust in 1995 by introducing a law On Competition, which dealt with antitrust, as well as with unfair competition and consumer protection matters. As a first attempt, it raised a lot of questions, but it also opened the topic of competition law in the country and served as a starting point in developing the relevant legal framework.

With oil reserves constantly estimated between 150 and 200 million barrels, Albania has been widely regarded as one of the richest in hydrocarbons European countries, whereas Patos-Marinza oil area is recognized as the largest onshore oil field in continental Europe. Therefore, it was only normal for the industry to be quickly regulated upon the transition of Albania towards democracy in the early 1990s, by adopting industry specific legislation. Law 7746/1993 and Law 7811/1994, dealing with the granting of exploration and exploitation rights and the taxation of the activities, respectively.

Boyanov & Co and Kalo & Associates have advised Albania Telecom Invest Bulgaria and One Telecommunications SHA Albania on a refinancing loan made by a club of banks including OTP Bank Hungary, DSK Bank Bulgaria, and Banka OTP Albania, for a principal amount of EUR 37 million with a maturity of 10 years. Wolf Theiss advised the lenders on the deal.

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