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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » August 26, 2010
Austria in Poland
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Law Without Frontiers: Polish-Austrian Experience
August 26, 2010   
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Ewelina Stobiecka, managing partner of the Polish office of Austria’s law firm e|n|w|c Attorneys at Law, talks to Bożenna Osucha.

You are the managing partner of the Polish office of the e|n|w|c law firm from Austria. What is your clients’ experience in carrying out joint Polish-Austrian projects?
Our law firm was established in Vienna in 1986 and its Polish office is one of eight e|n|w|c offices in Central and Eastern Europe. Last year, we celebrated our fifth anniversary in Poland. e|n|w|c offices work closely together, because our experience comes from international practice coupled with superb knowledge of the legal system in each country. International law includes regulations that favor business between Poland and Austria. Unlike most international transactions, business relations between Poland and Austria are not bound by legal restrictions which, for example, require documents recognized by courts and public agencies in one country to be legalized in their country of issue. What is also important, the mindset of the Polish people is quite close to that of Austrians. To a large extent, this is because of the tradition, history and geography as a result of which Austria has always played an active role in Central and Eastern Europe. Still, despite all these advantages, Poles and Austrians who want to work together have to cope with many problems and loopholes in the law.

What should Austrians doing business in Poland pay special attention to?
One of the biggest problems Austrian entrepreneurs encounter in Poland are detailed and complicated administrative and legal procedures, such as those applying to construction or legalization of residency in Poland, which one would expect to be very simple. There are even more problems when Austrians operating in Poland need to appear in a Polish court. Even if they are familiar with legal proceedings and have excellent preparation to handle their own court cases in Austria without a lawyer’s help, they will still have a hard time in Poland. Some Polish procedures would be completely new to them, for example, preclusion of evidence where all evidence must be submitted right when the lawsuit is filed. It is thus extremely important to properly “describe” and meticulously document international business so as to avoid unpleasant formal and legal surprises in case of a conflict or when it is necessary to approach a court to settle a dispute.

How are Polish businesspeople doing in Austria?
Polish people doing business in Austria face similar problems and I need to stress that seeing things in terms of analogy is a dead end street. The same issues can be regulated differently in different countries, local agencies work on different principles and use different procedures. The legal culture of Polish entrepreneurs also differs from that of foreign investors. As they start business operations abroad, many Polish entrepreneurs refrain from consulting a lawyer. Obviously, they could easily visit a law firm and a consultant who works in the target region. Such consultation can frequently prevent “costly” mistakes, many of which result from falling into a routine.

Polish businesspeople abroad often risk a situation in which their claims in respect of contracting parties may no longer be valid because they have been filed too late. When you sign any agreement, apart from “sealing” the business deal, you need to take into account all other nuances inherent in a foreign legal system. But failure to fully understand a contract is not the only source of problems for Polish entrepreneurs. It often happens that there is no contract at all and instead, the parties only use template order forms and receipts as evidence that, for example, a shipment was received. On such occasions, the lawyer has to determine what arrangements the parties originally made, figure out what the joint business was supposed to look like, where the problem emerged and how it can be solved. It is thus vital for entrepreneurs seeking legal assistance in Poland and Austria to find a consultant who knows all the specific features of the two markets and can act within both legal systems.
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