Regional Legal News Q1-2018

The SELA regional newsletter features an overview of the most important regional legislative developments recently announced in the jurisdictions of SELA coverage. Many of the changes recently implemented impact the regions ability to attract foreign investments and related to tax, customs and other investment incentives, illustrating just how strategically important the governing bodies of the region see foreign investment.

Albania

Law on Tourism 

One of the key strategic initiatives of the government of Albania is to further develop the country’s tourism sector. In line with this objective, the Albanian Parliament amended the Law on Tourism on 18 December 2017, providing for the definitions of “4 and 5-star hotels / resorts, with special status” and the relevant criteria, as well as the categories of investors in these accommodating structures who will benefit from tax incentives. 

As stipulated by the amendment, in order for the Council of Ministers to award an investor the status of “special investor” for a 4 or 5-star hotel, the investor is required to invest in a duly certified 4 or 5-star hotel, and to make a minimum investment of EUR 8 million and for 4-star hotel or EUR 15 million for 5-star hotel, for the construction of the accommodating structure. 

The detailed conditions, criteria and procedures for the award of the status of special investor (i.e. “special status”) shall be determined by a Decision of the Council of Ministers. 

Changes to Tax Legislation 

On 30 November 2017, the Albanian Parliament approved amendments to the following tax laws, effective as of 1 January 2018: 

Law on Value Added Tax

A reduced VAT rate of 6% is applied to all supply services offered within accommodating structures of “5-star hotels / resorts with special status,” as defined by the newly amended Law on Tourism and operated under a renowned international Hotel brand name. Up to the enactment of such amendment, the reduced VAT rate of 6% was applicable for all Hotel operators only with respect to the supply of accommodation (sleeping) services. The conditions, criteria and procedures for the application of this provision (i.e. granting of special status) shall be determined by a Decision of the Council of Ministers. 

Law on National Taxes

Luxury cars are now defined as vehicles having 6+1 seat (instead of the previous requirement of 4+1 seat), while the technical / price criteria remain unaffected.  

Also, an additional exemption has been granted to persons having special status under relevant laws (i.e. war invalids, veterans, invalid or blind persons) where such categories are exempted from the payment of the service tariffs for the actions and services of the Ministry of Justice, state prosecutor or notary.  

Law on Income Tax

Based on the amendment, “4 and 5-star hotels / resorts, with special status” as defined by the Law on Tourism, and holders of a recognized international trademark brand name, are exempt from corporate income tax (CIT) for a period of 10 years, provided they are awarded “special status” no later than December 2024. The effects of the exemption commence at the moment the accommodating structure commences its economic activity, but not later than 3 years from the obtainment of the special status. The detailed conditions, criteria and procedures for the award of the status of special investor (i.e. “special status”) shall be determined by a Decision of the Council of Ministers. 

Furthermore, the CIT rate for entities in the IT sector (software manufacturing / development) is reduced from 15% to 5%. The definition of the activities deemed as software manufacturing / development and the relevant procedures for the implementation of the reduced CIT shall be determined by Decision of the Council of Ministers. 

Law on Local Taxes

The recent changes to the Law on Local Taxes involve major changes to the building tax. Building tax is calculated as an annual obligation and it is paid on a monthly basis or for longer periods, depending on the taxpayer category, as of the relevant decision of the Council of Ministers. The tax on building is now calculated as a percentage of the tax base (value of the building, computed according to the methodology and procedures set forth by a decision of the Council of Ministers). 

The building tax rate, applied as a percentage of the tax base, is as follows: 

  • 0.05% for buildings used / exploited for living purposes; 
  • 0.2% for buildings used / exploited for economic activity; 
  • 30% of the relevant tax rate for the entire construction surface for buildings duly provided with development permit but which construction has not been completed within the designated term.  

Furthermore, “4 and 5-star hotels / resorts with special status” as defined by Law on Tourism, and holders of a recognized international trademark brand name are exempted from the application of building tax, while “5-star hotels / resorts, with special status” are also exempted from infrastructure tax.  

Others

Other changes to the tax framework, involve changes to the Law on Excise and Law on the approval of the customs tariff levels.

Law on Energy Sector 

Approved on 15 February 2018, this amendment is part of a reform initiative recently implemented in the energy sector, aimed at liberalization of the energy market in Albania. The amendment sets forth the legal grounds for the establishment of the Albanian Energy Exchange, the role of the market operator, its commercial structure, ownership regime, etc. Further, the amendment seeks to regulate the entry into the liberalized energy market of the end customers. 

Bosnia & Herzegovina 

The Law on Excise Duties of Bosnia & Herzegovina 

Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH), as one of the candidates for European Union (EU) membership, adopted a set of excise tax on fuel in 2017 by making amendments to the Law on Excise Duties (“Official Gazette of Bosnia and Herzegovina” No. 49/09, 49/14, 60/14, 91/17). This is one of the necessary steps in its path to full membership in the EU. It was very “hot” subject at the time and not considered politically popular, however it was adopted by the BH Assembly by a very tight vote after five failures. The amendments entered into force on 3 January 2018 and are applicable as of 1 February 2018. The fuel levy has also been increased by 0.15 BAM per liter of fuel.  

The adoption of these changes to the Law on Excise Duties is intended to contribute to road construction in BiH, because the funds collected from fuel levies will be allocated to road construction projects.  

Also, it is important to point out that the adoption of these amendments should unblock funds from the International Monetary Fund and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for infrastructure projects in BiH. This will, according to EU officials, increase investments in BiH and move BiH a few steps forward towards EU membership. 

The Law on Foreign Investment of Republic of Srpska 

The National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska adopted a new Law on Foreign Investments (“Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska” No. 21/18) on 22 February 2018. This law regulates the rights, obligations and status of foreign investors, forms of foreign investments, authorities responsible for the approval of foreign investments, the work of the Foreign Investors Council of the Republic of Srpska and the promotion and attraction of foreign investments in the Republic of Srpska. With the entrance of this law into force, the Law on Foreign Investments ("Official Gazette of the Republic of Srpska", No. 25/02, 24/04, 52/11 and 68/13) ceased to be valid. 

Pursuant to this law, investments can be made in any sector, except within the military and public information industries, where the term ‘public information’ was reduced to its narrower and clearer meaning of ‘media affairs’, and opportunities for investing in this sector were further liberalized.  The law creates potential for foreign investors to invest in media affairs in a proportion of up to 49 percent of the capital of a business entity in exceptional cases and if so allowed by the regulations governing this field.  

The reason for the adoption of the Law on Foreign Investments is to promote the investment potential of Republika Srpska and to attempt to create a better climate for investors.  

The Republic of Srpska Law on Concessions 

The National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska adopted amendments to the Law on Concessions (“Official Gazette of Republic of Srpska”, No. 59/13, 16/18) on 8 February 2018. Similar to the amendments to the Law on Excise Duties of BH, the discussion on this matter highly publicized. Government opposition parties fiercely attacked the proposition on making amendments to the Law on Concessions. 

This law regulates the subject and competence for awarding concessions, the concession policy, the manner and procedure for the award of concessions in the Republic of Srpska, the elements of the concession agreement and the termination of the concession agreement, the rights and obligations of the concessionaire and the grantor, the jurisdiction of the Concessions Commission of Republic of Srpska and other issues of importance for the realization of concessions. 

According to the competent minister, the amendments to the Law on Concessions went in the direction of regulating this area, to fully uniform it, and to harmonize these relations and bring all those who are subjected to this law in the same position.  

This amendment defines the spending of funds collected from the concession fee by the local self-government units, and creates an obligation for the ministries to regulate the issue of the allocation of the concession fee for use in cases when the concession activity is performed in the territory of several local self-government units. By applying this law, local communities should have a certain benefit and higher income for their natural resources in their area. 

The amendments to the Law on Concessions changed the way and amounts the concession fee is paid and abolishes the special fee for electricity production as some projects were subject to both the concession fee and the special fee which imposed additional costs. 

Bulgaria 

Changes to the Bulgarian Corporate Income Tax Act (CITA) 

At the end of 2017 Bulgarian tax legislation saw some important changes. One of the main changes was to the Corporate Income Tax Act (CITA), which now stipulates that economically inactive undertakings are no longer obliged to file annual corporate tax returns. As defined by item 30 of section1 of the Additional Provisions of the Accountancy Act, economically inactive undertakings are those that cumulatively meet the following requirements: 

  • have entered into no transactions within the meaning of the Commercial Act; 
  • during the reporting period, no conditions have arisen to necessitate income acknowledgement as per the Accountancy Act and the applicable accounting standards; 
  • have not performed any activities connected to investments, production and/or sales; 
  • have not purchased any goods or services for the purpose of gaining income and profit. 

Economically inactive undertakings are obliged to declare this circumstance by submitting a formal declaration to the Commercial Register no later than March 31 of the following year. Failure to comply with this requirement is subject to sanction at the amount of BGN 200. 

Furthermore, the Act explicitly stipulates that the new rule also applies to the filing of annual tax returns and the annual activity report for 2017. 

Labor Code Amendments Trigger Changes to the Commercial Act 

Driven by the desire to introduce measures for protection of employees, legislators have introduced amendments to the Bulgarian Labor Code. The amendments in question concern outstanding payments by employers to employees. These in turn triggered controversial changes in the Commercial Act that were passed on 22 December 2017. While shielding employees, the said requirements pose additional burdens on transactions for transfers of undertakings and transfers of company shares in limited liability companies. Such transfers, for companies with payroll employees, are now only legally allowed if the company has no outstanding liabilities and social security payments related to employees. The transactions are registered with the Commercial Register only under the condition that compliance with this requirement has been proven.  

Following some period of uncertainty and intensive public debates, additional legislative changes have been introduced to fill in the gap of how compliance with the new requirement should be certified. The rule is now that the transferor, and in cases of transfer of shares also the manager of the company, is required to present a formal template declaration that no outstanding employee-related liabilities exist. Once such a declaration is filed with the Registry Agency (keeping the Commercial Register), the General Labor Inspectorate Executive Agency must be notified and investigate the authenticity of the information. Should any discrepancies emerge upon inspection, the matter must be referred to the public prosecution authorities. 

Newly-Adopted Act to Implement Payment Services Directive 2 

The Bulgarian National Assembly adopted the new Payment Services and Payment Systems Act that transposes Directive (EU) 2015/2366 on payment services in the internal market (PSD 2). 

The new act implements the evolution of existing regulation for the payments industry and requires payment service providers to make a significant number of changes to existing operations. 

With payment safety in mind, payment service providers must now apply strong customer authentication in case where the payer accesses its payment account online, initiates an electronic payment transaction or carries out any action through a remote channel which may imply a risk of payment fraud or other abuses.  

Additionally, payment service providers shall have to comply with new requirements on restriction and control of operational risks in the provision of their services, including security risks. A special risk-reporting provision has been introduced, according to which payment service providers licensed by the Bulgarian National Bank are required to report any security-related incidents. If users of payment services are also affected, they also must be immediately notified. 

Two new services have been introduced, in particular account information services, and payment initiation services via simple credit transfers for online purchases. The Act also enhances the rights of consumers, including by reducing their liability for unauthorized payment transactions to BGN 100 and by enabling them to claim an unconditional refund for direct debits in BGN. 

The Payment Services and Payment Systems Act further increases transparency for users by requiring payment service providers to furnish users with information on applicable fees and a glossary of standard terminology and definitions. 

Croatia 

Gas Market Act 

The Gas Market Act (published in the Official Gazette No. 18/2018) entered into force on 3 March 2018. This piece of legislation provides rules and measures for the safe and trustworthy production, transport, storage and management of liquefied natural gas (LNG), as well as for terminal storage, gas distribution, supply and management of LNG and/or compressed natural gas (CNG), its supply position and the organisation of the gas market as a part of the EU gas market. 

The Act also implements and ensures the enforcement of the relevant EU legislation on gas, including LNG, and energy market and supply. 

The Republic of Croatia is actively working on fulfilling its obligations to continuously harmonize national legislation with the EU acquis by the following legislative amendments:  

Act on Amendments of the Environment Protection Act

The Act on Amendments of the Environment Protection Ac, entered into force on 15 February 2018. The amendments additionally define environmental damage and imminent threat to the environment. The list of persons who can submit environmental damage reports has been further expanded by including the concerned public, alongside the public affected by environmental damage. Furthermore, relevant operators, owners and authorization holders of offshore facilities are now included in the preparation of the Intervention Plan for Accidental Marine Pollution. The environmental impact assessment procedure for the project should, where relevant for the project, include projection of major incidents and catastrophe. 

Act on Amendments of the Credit Institutions Act 

The Act on Amendments of the Credit Institutions Act entered into force on 14 February 2018. This piece of legislation establishes supervisory authority of the Croatian National Bank (CNB) over credit institutions of the same or similar risk profile. Additionally, it regulates protection of depositors and clients of credit institutions during M&A procedures, consumer protection measures which the CNB can impose on credit institutions, and enters the principle of proportionality in the area of administrative fines for credit institutions. 

Introduction of Final Proposal of the Strategic Investment Projects Act 

On 15 February 2018 the Government of the Republic of Croatia presented the Final Proposal of the Strategic Investment Projects Act. It was emphasized that the purpose of this legislative change is to simplify and accelerate the procedures for investment projects preparation.  The Proposed Act provides several significant changes in favor of potential investors, including: a minimal amounts criteria of the total investments costs for a strategic project is decreased from HRK 150 million to HRK 75 million, the percentage of the proof on the amount of the funds for financing the project has been decreased from 10 % to 5 % and it will be accepted if in the form of a deposit, bank letter and/or the funds already invested in the project. The President of the Government of the Republic of Croatia has stated that the intended changes provided in the Proposed Act aim at strengthening the investment environment in Croatia. 

Macedonia 

Financial Support to Investments in Macedonia 

The Government of the Republic of Macedonia, through the Ministry of Economy, is drafting a Law on Financial Support to Investments. The final draft of this law is expected to enter parliamentary procedure in the middle of April 2018. 

The Government, within the framework of its activities for improving the existing state of economic growth and competitiveness, concluded that there is a need for adoption of Industrial Policy Measures that will encourage the investments and will improve the competitiveness of the Macedonian economy.  

Furthermore, in this direction, the Government recognized the need for its inclusion and contribution to encourage economic growth and development in the Republic of Macedonia. This will provide equal framework and opportunities, under certain conditions, so that business entities will receive financial support that will improve their economic growth and which will consequently contribute to increased overall economic growth and development in the Republic of Macedonia.  

Until now, granting financial support has been regulated by the Law on Technological Industrial Development Zones and the Law on establishing the Agency for Foreign Investments and Export Promotions, but it was necessary to address this issue, in the same way, for all business entities in the Republic of Macedonia.  

What the Bill Proposes 

The bill proposes that beneficiaries of financial support can be business entities which carry out production activities, show revenue growth and have the same average number of employees, i.e. have an increase in the average number of employees in the last year.  The bill also defines who cannot be a beneficiary of state financial support, whereby several categories of entities are listed:

  • business activity of public interest determined by law;  
  • licensed business activity;  
  • regulated business activity;  
  • beneficiaries of the right to concession, if this is their dominant business activity; 
  • business activities related to dedicated production (armament and military equipment); and  
  • business entities which produce excise goods.  

Financial support, under this Law, cannot be granted to entities that use subsidies, which perform activities in the field of agriculture and fisheries; which carry out construction activities related to construction and sale of apartments and apartments buildings, and only specifically for the part of the activity, construction and sales of apartments; and who perform activities in the ICT sector, unless the activity is related to establishing organizational forms for technological development and research.  

Two types of financial support are foreseen:  

  1. financial support for investments; and  
  2. financial support for improving competitiveness.   

Types of financial support for investments are:  

  1. new employment support; 
  2. support for establishing and promoting cooperation with suppliers from the Republic of Macedonia;
  3. support for establishing organizational forms for technological development and research; 
  4. support for investment projects of significant economic interest; 
  5. support for growth of capital investments and revenues;  
  6. support for the purchase of funds from companies in difficulty.  

types of financial support for competitiveness are: 

  • support to increase market competitiveness;  
  • support for entering and penetrating new markets and increasing sales. 

The procedure for granting financial support will be carried out by the Directorate for Technological Industrial Development Zones and the Agency for Foreign Investments and Export Promotions. 

Montenegro 

Law on Amendments to the Law on Protection of Competition 

The National Assembly of Montenegro adopted the Law on Amendments to the Law on Protection of Competition which entered into force on 8 March 2018. The Law on Amendments to the Law on Protection of Competition fulfills one of the main conditions for opening Chapter 8 negotiations related to the protection of competition. State aid control and administration were within the shared competence of the State Aid Control Commission and the State Aid Preparation Unit. Both institutions are part of the Ministry of the Finance and therefore not fully operationally independent. The Law on Amendments to the Law on Protection of Competition allows the transfer of state aid control functions to the Montenegrin Competition Agency, a functionally independent institution, which will be internally reorganized to accommodate this new scope of work.  

Law on Foreigners 

The National Assembly of Montenegro has adopted a new Law on Foreigners, which entered into force on 3 March 2018. The law aims to regulate conditions for the entry, exit, movement, residence and work of foreigners in Montenegro in accordance with international standards and in a quality manner compatible with European legislation. The Law on Foreigners will take full effect upon accession into the European Union.  

Law on Services 

The National Assembly of Montenegro adopted a new Law on Services, which entered into force on 8 November 2017. One of the main reasons for the adoption of the Law on Services is harmonization with the Stabilization and Association Agreement between the European Union, its Member States and the Republic of Montenegro and the Internal Market Services Directive 2006/123/EC.

The Law on Services regulates services where a decision from the authorities is necessary for execution, such as architectural, engineering, veterinary, educational, craft, agricultural and forestry services, cultural services, tourism, sports and fitness services, construction, property related services, industry such as installation and maintenance of machines, commercial, retail services, services provided by lawyers and others. As the service market is very dynamic, the law also provides rules for new services that will appear on the market in the future. 

Law on Financial Leasing, Factoring, Purchase of Receivables, Microcredit and Credit-Guarantee Operations 

The National Assembly of Montenegro adopted the new Law on Financial Leasing, Factoring, Purchase of Receivables, Microcredit and Credit-Guarantee Operations, which entered into force on 11 November 2017 and will apply after the expiration of a 6-month period from 11 May 2018, or the date of entry into force. The law aims to regulate financial leasing, factoring, debt recovery, microcredit and credit and guarantee operations, as well as the establishment, operation and control of the business of companies engaged in these operations.  

Companies currently engaged in the business of financial leasing, factoring or purchase of receivables, other than Montenegrin banks whose license already covers these activities, are required to file applications to obtain the relevant licenses from the Central Bank by 11 December 2018.  

Law on Amendments to the Customs Law 

The National Assembly of Montenegro adopted the Law on Amendments to the Customs Law, which entered into force on 8 November 2017. The amendments introduce the institute of authorized economic operator and other procedural related matters. One of the main reasons for the adoption of the Law on Amendments to the Customs Law is further harmonization with European legislation, primarily in accordance with Regulation 952/2013 regarding Union Customs Code. 

Serbia 

Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism 

The main reasons for adoption of the new Law on Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism, which will enter into force on 1 April 2018, are improvement of the existing system and harmonization with international standards. This law prescribes the following novelties: 

  • relevant person’s duty to conduct the risk assessment in relation to the entire business, in order to determine the level of vulnerability to money laundering and terrorist financing misuse; 
  • streamlined procedure for identifying and verifying identity; 
  • duty of publishing each decision which imposes a penalty or other measure of the supervisory authorities; 
  • introduction of the term “trust”; 
  • lower limits of the pecuniary penalties have been increased for certain misdemeanors; and 
  • relevant persons will primarily have the following obligations with respect to harmonization with this new law: 
    • to perform the respective actions and measures for the purpose of prevention of money laundering in relation to the entities with which business cooperation was established before entry into force of the new law and to conduct risk assessment. The deadline for the fulfillment of this obligation is 25 December 2018; and  
    • to harmonize their internal acts with the new law until 25 March 2018. 

Law on Value-Added Tax and Law on Companies Income Tax 

The amendments to the Law on Value-Added Tax and Law on Companies Income Tax, which entered into force on 1 January 2018, prescribe certain novelties such as: 

  • new supply where the supply of goods and services is not subject to VAT computation;  
  • amendments regarding the right to deduct the input VAT; 
  • right to deduct the computed VAT in case of incorrect application of the reverse charge mechanism; 
  • postpone the obligation to submit detailed breakdown of the VAT return together with the VAT return for 1 July 2018; 
  • introduction of a new special taxation regime for the supplies of investment gold; 
  • the obligation to file a tax return also exists in cases of suspension of liquidation procedures, and not only in cases of the initiation and completion of the liquidation procedure; 
  • new rules on tax depreciation, deductibility of expenses for bad debt provisions, the deductibility of expenses from debt write-off performed in accordance with the National Bank of Serbia regulations, sale and purchase price of an asset - capital gain/loss, bankruptcy and liquidation, services subject to withholding tax, tax holiday and transfer pricing. 

Labor Law and Law on Employment of Foreigners 

The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia adopted amendments to the Labor Law and the Law on the Employment of Foreigners, which entered into force on 25 December 2017 and which prescribe certain novelties which are of importance for the employers, such as: 

  • shorter deadline for registration of employees to mandatory social insurance; 
  • obligation for the employers to keep a record on overtime work; 
  • detailed provisions regulating delivery of the decision on termination of employment agreement which now apply to delivery of the warning as well;  
  • stricter fines for non-compliance with legal provisions, new exceptions from application of the Law on Employment of Foreigners; 
  • defining new type of work permit for special cases of employment i.e. work permit for training and specialization, has been introduced; 
  • extension of the work permit for the seconded persons and work permits for movement within the company which may be extended for a period of up to two years; and 
  • request for extension of the work permit needs to be submitted at the earliest 30 days before expiration of the valid work permit, and no later than the expiry date of the previous work permit. 

Law on Amendments to the Law on Bankruptcy 

On 14 December 2017 the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Law on Amendments to the Law on Bankruptcy, which entered into force on 25 December 2017. This law does not apply to bankruptcy proceedings that were pending at the time when the law entered into force. New institutes have been introduced in accordance with comparative legal solutions, while a number of existing provisions have been further elaborated, with the aim of more efficient conduct of the bankruptcy proceedings and improvement of the settlement of creditors, as well as improvement of the position of secured creditors: 

  • position of the secured creditors has been improved by granting secured creditors the right to participate in the creditors' committee. The members will now be elected from the secured creditors’ rank, and participation of these creditors will be necessary when deciding on matters within the competence of the creditors' committee; 
  • the rules applicable to bankruptcy proceedings and conditions for pledged assets that are to be settled outside of the standard bankruptcy proceedings have been elaborated upon to a greater extent; 
  • certain provisions of the reorganization process have been further clarified and elaborated upon in order to harmonize court practices and to prevent abuse of this mechanism, which in practice has led to extremely long reorganization procedures at the expense of creditors; and 
  • more efficient mechanisms for controlling the conduct of bankruptcy administrators, the participation of authorized appraisers and court experts, as well as certain legal remedies and persons entitled to submit them. 

Law on Electronic Document, Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions 

The new Law on Electronic Document, Electronic Identification and Trust Services for Electronic Transactions, which entered into force on 27 October 2017, was adopted with the aim to establish fundamental legal framework which will provide more room for implementation of electronic forms of conducting business operations and bringing it to the same level of use as the existing classic forms. It is also expected that it will induce a faster and more efficient manner of conducting business for companies, and more efficient functioning and work of public authorities as well. This law inter alia governs e-documents, electronic identification, trust services for electronic transactions, e-signature, e-stamp and time stamp, as well as electronic delivery.  

Law on Agricultural Land 

The National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia adopted amendments to the Law on Agricultural Land, which entered into force on 1 September 2017, by which citizens of the EU are able to buy up to two hectares of arable land in Serbia if they meet certain legal requirements. Such a person must have: 

  • at least 10 years of residence in Serbia within a local government unit in which he/she wants to purchase land;  
  • cultivated the respective agricultural land for at least three years;  
  • a registered active agricultural holding; and 
  • machinery and equipment in order to undertake agricultural production. 

Additionally, agricultural land which is designated as construction land (in accordance with lex specialis), or is designated as protected property, or is located near military facilities, or is less than 10 km away from the Serbian border, cannot be transferred to citizens of EU. 

Slovenia 

In Slovenia, year 2018 brings in several legislative novelties, which are of key importance and affect numerous areas. The following publication highlights the legislative novelties related to field of construction, investments incentives and class actions.  

The Building Act 

The Building Act (GZ; Official Gazette of the RS, No. 61/17 and 72/17), the new Spatial Management Act (ZUreP-2; Official Gazette of the RS, No. 61/17) and the Architectural and civil engineering activities Act (ZAID; Official Gazette of the RS, No. 61/17) represent a renovation package of laws in the field of spatial management and construction. In order to shorten the procedure for obtaining a building permit, the Building Act will enter into force on 1 June 2018. Obtaining a building permit will no longer be required for the removal of buildings, an investor is only required to notify the removal and to comply with the existing spatial plan and other legal provisions in force. Significantly, the investor may, prior to the submission of application for building permit, obtain a binding pre-decision on compliance with spatial planning acts and other regulations, before being able to show right in rem. Such a decision does not, however, give permission to start building and is also not a prerequisite for the issuance of a building permit, but may ensure greater certainty in subsequent decisions on its issuance. The construction will be completed with the issuance of an operating permit, which will require a special procedure, including a technical examination, for complex buildings and ones with an environmental impact only. 

New Act on Investment Incentives 

After the currently applicable legislation in Slovenia was assessed to put foreign investors in an unequal position compared to domestic investors, a new Act on Investment Incentives (ZSInv; Official Gazette of the RS, No. 13/18) was implemented to balance their positions and rearrange the criteria for granting incentives. The act will enter into force on 1 July 2018. The Act newly defines the forms of investment incentives, classified into three categories: subsidies; loans, guarantees and subsidized interest rates; and an option to purchase real estate from municipality at a price below the market value. The criteria for granting incentives has been determined as the minimal value of the investment and the number of working posts intended to be created not later than three years after the conclusion of an investment, whereas the numbers of both criteria vary between the sectors of economic activity. Incentives may be granted for investments not yet implemented at the time of submission of application. The amount of support depends on, inter alia, the number of working posts intended to be established, especially for highly qualified workers, value of investment, the investor’s position on the market, the expected transfer of technology, knowledge and experience, social responsibility, etc. Incentives to large companies are especially limited. Furthermore, there are certain economic activities explicitly excluded from being subject to incentives, such as the steel industry, shipbuilding, construction, transport sector, synthetic fibers industry, education, and others. 

The new Class Actions Act 

The new Class Actions Act (ZKolT; Official Gazette of the RS, No. 55/17), entering into force on 21 April 2018, will be implemented to simplify the exercise of rights in cases where there is a large number of injured parties. It is expected to strengthen the protection of consumers and deter potential infringers. Class actions facilitate access to judicial protection, particularly in cases where individual damage is insignificant and therefore the individual claims of potential plaintiffs are uneconomic. A system of representative action will be widely introduced for the first time in the Slovenian national law, meaning that class actions may be lodged by relevant private legal entities and also by senior state attorneys. The Act enables the possibility to lodge class actions for monetary and other compensation claims, as well as collective injunctions, in the areas of consumer protection, financial instruments, competition, environmental protection and violation of employees' rights. Under certain conditions, entities from other EU Member States will also be able to file class actions. As means of peaceful dispute resolution, an Act establishes a special procedure of substantive judicial examination and approval of collective settlements.