Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



It is my impression that right now an American lawyer has no problem getting acquainted with East European laws concerning foreign investment. There are so many translations now in this country that almost every new law is immediately translated into English. The American lawyer can get to this text at almost the same time as the East European lawyer can get to it.

So it is very easy to get acquainted with legal texts of the most important laws from the point of view of foreign investors, but there are some traps. And it is my impression that when lawyers get in trouble with investment, or foreign investors get in trouble in Eastern Europe, it is because of the lack of knowledge. They lack knowledge of the entire legal environment, the general legal system, and how to do business, how to negotiate, with whom to deal, and how to deal in Eastern Europe.

This is for two reasons. First, laws in Eastern Europe are generally based on the civil law system. So quite often there is simply no possibility of taking direct translations into English. It is much easier to translate the East European text into German or French and to understand it with a lawyer who is acquainted with the German or the French legal system than to seek an American lawyer. Another problem is that all these countries are at a moment of deep transition. Transition always means changes. Quite often, something old has been destroyed, but nothing new has been put in its place.

It is necessary to keep in mind a sharp distinction between the three countries mentioned earlier: Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. They have quite clear objectives: to forget the entire communist past, to make their system a market economy like Western Europe, and to join, at the turn of century, if possible, the EC. The question is not what is the object, the object is clear. The question is how to achieve it.