THE LAW MARKET REPORT : Projects

THE LAW MARKET REPORT : ProjectsGreece is the word, especially when it comes to the European public-private partnership (PPP) sector, with a couple of major deals that have seen this dormant sector hot up.

As Eastern European countries continue to develop their systems, the work is expected to keep on coming, and the City firms are hoping to keep on reaping the benefits.

Motorways and transport links have seen the most activity, with the EU’s Trans-European Networks project bringing the continent’s road and rail links up to scratch.

Greece has two of the sector’s biggest current deals, with a tunnel project in Thessaloniki and a motorway linking that city and Athens. Germany is moving ahead with deals on its motorways, although those projects are in the early days. France continues to privatise its roads concessions, while Hungary and the Czech Republic also have active markets.

The Eastern European markets are presenting plenty of work for PPP lawyers as they develop their legal systems to reach the standards required by the EU.

Ensuring that the PPP contracts have the required levels of legal certainty has been a key issue.

Firms to have reaped the rewards from the emergence of PPP deals on the Continent include, among others, Linklaters in Hungary, Lovells in Greece and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Pinsent Masons in Cyprus.

But problems in Eastern Europe are potentially looming on the horizon, with questions about the way countries which are not yet members of the EU have handled their deals.

Questions about the transparency, state aid and anticompetitive practices in both Bulgaria and Romania have been raised. These issues will be investigated when the countries join as member states and come under the EU’s guidelines.

A tendency on the Continent for losing bidders in the procurement process to sue the government is widely considered as a bidding tactic among legal circles. This can cause delays, while the political will of the governments involved can also impact on the speed, or otherwise, of a PPP project advancing.