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On February 24, 2021, CEE Legal Matters reported that Russia’s Intellectual Capital law firm had persuaded the Moscow Arbitrazh Court that a requirement that participants in a Rosatom tender for legal counsel be ranked in Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners was illegal and violated Russian competition law. CEELM spoke with several lawyers in the market to learn more about the matter.

In his recent Guest Editorial EY’s Georgy Kovalenko spoke of a rising trend of large companies building up their in-house legal functions to the point where they will not only compete with law firms in terms of catering to their internal clients but will also slowly branch out into offering their services to other companies. CEE Legal Matters spoke with Eugenia Volkoskaya, General Manager of Gazpromneft Expert Solutions – an enterprise that, while not there just yet, seems poised to do exactly what Kovalenko was foreseeing.

Halfway through the third quarter, 2021 is proving to be a good year for the Russian market, both in terms of M&A activity and a frothy IPO market. This uptick in part reflects unleashing the demand pent up over the COVID-19 recession (although Russia continues to struggle with the pandemic), as well as the upturn in global energy prices (given the oil & gas sector continues to lubricate the Russian economy).

 In “The Corner Office” we ask Managing Partners at law firms across Central and Eastern Europe about their backgrounds, strategies, and responsibilities. With summer having just passed, the question this time: What is your one favorite yearly activity to disconnect?

On June 15, 2021, Hungary passed legislation that bans the dissemination of content in schools deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change. Dubbed by many as simply the “Anti-LGBTQ+ Law,” it has wide-ranging implications – even leaving social issues / social impact aside. CEE Legal Matters spoke with several Hungarian lawyers to discuss the law’s business implications and the impact it had on law firms’ work.

In the late Summer of 1984, while hanging out in Bucharest one evening, a university friend and I decided (with the help of some local red wine) to go “look for Dracula.” Full of adventure and certainly educational, the experience was not a positive one. Due to the harsh policies of the Ceausescu regime at the time, Romania was a dark place (there were literally few if any lights during the evenings), with little food to eat (even for foreigners like us), and a local population who would rarely, if ever, talk to us (unbeknownst to us at the time, the Romanian secret police, the Securitate, required anyone who had contact with a foreigner to report the interaction – needless to say, this was not conducive to long and meaningful conversations).

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference, taking place in November 2021, and the recently published EU proposals on the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism have been at the top of the agenda, this summer, for the majority of Russian energy and other industrial corporations. The green agenda has never been so acute in Russia, the current level of business engagement in the preparations for negotiations on the implementation of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement cannot compare to the one during the Kyoto Protocol period.

All countries have had to deal with the intensifying effects of climate change in recent years. As a direct response, we are in the process of moving toward a low-carbon future. The Paris Agreement and the EU’s Green Deal have already urged all sectors to take measures to reduce carbon emission levels, and the energy transition movement is rapidly growing. COVID-19 has also hastened this global movement.

After a year of unprecedented health and economic challenges, the global economy is trying to recover, and the energy transition needs to be at the heart of this. As a lifeline out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Union has proposed the Green Deal, which focuses on achieving zero net emissions by 2050. Can oil and gas companies also lead the transition to a net-zero future in more traditional and heavily carbonized economies, such as Poland?

Over the past years, Ukraine expressed its intention to step on the energy transition pathway, develop energy efficiency measures, phase out fossil fuels, and switch to renewable energy sources (RES). The development of green hydrogen production (based on electrolysis of water using renewable electricity) is part of the chosen direction. Therefore, the Ministry of Energy of Ukraine and more than 20 Ukrainian companies have joined the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance to coordinate efforts to develop hydrogen energy.

As the Czech government signed off on the EU “Green Deal”, which aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions to zero by 2050, the Czech Republic needs to find ways to achieve this goal, or at least to get close to it. Even though certain legislative and other supporting measures are currently being undertaken towards transitioning to low carbon energy – changes to the Czech Act on supported sources of energy, state subsidies for the (re)construction of power plants – given its geographical specifics and historical background, nuclear power is likely to play a key role in replacing coal-burning power plants. Under current state policy, construction of new nuclear reactors is to begin shortly. The first new reactors, to be located at the current Dukovany power plant, should begin operations by 2037. The Dukovany project took precedence over the construction of new nuclear blocks at the Temelin power plant, a priority at the beginning of the 21st century.

Gas is of particular economic importance for Austria. In addition to production, infrastructure (including the Baumgarten gas hub), transportation, trade, and supply-secure coverage of gas demand play a major role. Yearly demand of roughly 80 to 90 terawatt-hours, constant over the last ten years, is generated by the manufacturing and energy sectors, non-energy consumption, agriculture, private households, power plants as conversion applications, transport, and the service sector. With a share of about 15%, gas also plays an important role in Austria’s electricity generation, primarily by providing flexible capacities that can be utilized at short notice to stabilize the power grid.

In 1874, a French writer, forerunner of science-fiction literature, named Jules Verne (1828-1905) wrote in his famous novel The Mysterious Island about a world where “water will one day be used as a fuel, that hydrogen and oxygen, which constitute it, used alone or simultaneously will provide an inexhaustible source of heat and light of an intensity that coal cannot have.” More than 110 years after his death, hydrogen is a hot topic in the global energy industry.

The end of 2020 saw landmark legislative interventions in Greece, mainly aiming to create the prerequisites for the widest possible adoption of the EU Target Model (the creation of a single EU energy market) and boost the penetration of renewable energy sources, in a regulated and rational way. According to the government, these interventions “establish the framework for a more rational operation of the sector, on more competitive terms, to the benefit of the consumers and of the Greek economy in general.”

Hungary has adopted the integrated energy policy guidelines of the EU, which aim to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% compared to the ‘90s level, increase the proportion of renewable energy in energy consumption to 32%, increase energy efficiency by 32.5%, and further the increased interconnection of the EU electric energy system. In that context, renewable energy is currently a hot topic.

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