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CMS Strommer Reich-Rohrwig Karasek Hainz is opening an office in the Serbian capital Belgrade, its second new office this year.
The Austrian-based firm claims to be the first foreign practice to open in the war-torn region. The office will be headed by dual-qualified partner Radivoje Petrikic, an international transaction specialist.
Earlier this year CMS Strommer, which is part of the international network which includes CMS Cameron McKenna, strengthened its Central and Eastern European operation by opening in Bratislava.
International partner Peter Huber says: "We'd received our licence to practise in Yugoslavia on 18 August. But now, with everything having changed, we're speeding up the expansion.
"Even if there hadn't been a major political change, foreign investment and aid would have been received in the region. Even before the election, Dr Petrikic indicated that [he believed] things might change in the region."
Huber says that in the short term the firm will concentrate on servicing construction clients, and in the medium term real estate companies.
He anticipates that once the economy recovers, CMS Strommer will be able to cash in on M&A, privatisation and banking work.
"We've had discussions with clients and other firms in the CMS group on whether our clients wanted representation in that area. We've done our market research," he says.
While CMS Strommer has the first permanent office there, Clifford Chance has undertaken some work in the region for International Rescue (The Lawyer, 30 August).
Hope for the region also lies with the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Huber says: "I haven't been in contact with the EBRD, but I'm told that the region is receiving attention." Serbia is not a member of the EBRD as it failed to meet the conditions for multi-party dem-ocracy and observation of human rights, although it is believed there are plans for the country to join under the new president, Vojislav Kostunica.