Practical seminar on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on arbitration

Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ

On 3 December 2020, another practical seminar was held on the subject of arbitration, organised jointly by the German-Serbian Chamber of Commerce (AHK), the German Institute of Arbitration (DIS) and IRZ. The event focussed on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on arbitration proceedings and arbitration law. Since the practical seminar was held online, the audience was larger than in previous years. The participating lawyers and corporate lawyers joined the seminar from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Germany.

Once the event had been opened by the joint organisers, the Head of Economic Affairs at the German Embassy, Anne-Kristin Piplica, welcomed the participants. The subjects covered by the practical seminar were presented in four blocks in an interview format, moderated by IRZ Head of Section, Dr. Stefan Pürner. The experts representing IRZ were:

  • Prof. Dr. Milena Djordjević, LL.M. (Pittsburgh), Law Faculty of the University of Belgrade and a board member of the Serbian Arbitration Association
  • Victor von Essen, M. Jur. (Oxford), a lawyer and Deputy Secretary General and Head of Case Management at DIS

One of the things that became clear was that the two arbitration institutions based in Belgrade and the DIS arbitration proceedings provide extremely good value for money. They offer the same level of quality but are less expensive than other internationally far more famous institutions. Both speakers also confirmed that the flexibility of arbitration proceedings is a considerable advantage, particularly at present. Any disruption to contractual relationships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can be dealt with quickly by arbitration proceedings, with the result that the number of these is increasing at present.

The speakers also emphasised the fact that the proactive role of arbitrators in DIS proceedings offers a considerable advantage compared with arbitration proceedings based on the legal interpretation of common law.

Presentation of a German law library in Kragujevac

A view of the meeting room in Kragujevac during the lecture by Prof. Dr. Slavko Đorđević (at the desk)
A view of the meeting room in Kragujevac during the lecture by Prof. Dr. Slavko Đorđević (at the desk)

As part of the 180th anniversary celebrations of the University of Kragujevac in Serbia, on 9 October 2020 IRZ presented the Law Faculty at the university with a library on Germany law and private international law. A supplementary course on German law is currently being established at the Law Faculty under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Slavko Đorđević. The book donation from the estate of Prof. Dr. Jörg Pirrung, a former judge at the European Court of First Instance, was presented by Prof. Dr. Rolf Wagner, who until recently was Head of Department for Private International Law at the German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV).

To mark the occasion of the presentation of this valuable library, IRZ together with the Law Faculty of the University of Kragujevac organised a series of lectures, which was attended both locally and online. The number of participants in Kragujevac was restricted due to healthcare guidelines, and so many participants attended the conference online. The event was opened by Prof. Dr. Nenad Filipović, Rector of the University, Prof. Dr. Dragan Vujisić, Dean of the Law Faculty, and Dr. Stefan Pürner, IRZ Head of Section, who expressly thanked Professor Pirrung’s widow for the generous donation. The second secretary at the German Embassy in Belgrade, Daniel Mohseni, also welcomed the participants and summed up the subsequent lectures under the title “The light and dark sides of German law – from legal certainty to the abuse of civil law through unrestricted interpretation in National Socialism”. He said that the successful cooperation with German institutions and the intensive teaching and research on German law was very fortunate, against the historical backdrop of the massacre in Kragujevac carried out by German soldiers during the occupation of Serbia in World War II.

Prof. Dr. Slavko Đorđević later went on to explain in his lecture why it is particularly worthwhile for law students in Serbia to study German law. He emphasised the fact that Germany is a typical representative of continental European law, with a long legal tradition and plenty of literature and practical application to refer to. Professor Đorđević referred to the close connection between academic and legal practice in German jurisprudence from a Serbian point of view. For a country preparing to join the EU, it is a great advantage that German law is already harmonised with European law. He concluded his lecture by stressing the merits of the German legal training system with its concept of general lawyers. The IRZ Head of Section responsible for Serbia, lawyer Dr. Stefan Pürner, then spoke in Serbian about the abuse of civil law in National Socialism and provided proof of the so-called “unrestricted interpretation of civil law” with cases from matrimonial and enforcement law.

The event reflected the friendly partnership between Germany and Serbia, which does not deny the dark sides of the past. The broadcasting company RTV Kragujevac reported on the event in its news programme (Učionica na otvorenom u okviru Pravnog fakulteta, from minute 2:30) and there is also an extensive report on the Law Faculty’s website, including a number of photos (Свечано отворена Немачка правна библиотека, донација фондације IRZ).

End of semester event for the English-language “Master in European Integration” course

Graphics: IRZ
Graphics: IRZ

On 9 June 2020, an event was held to mark the end of the semester for the English-language “Master in European Integration” course at the Law Faculty of the University of Belgrade. This course is being supported by IRZ. The online event hosted around 50 participants and was opened by the course leader, Prof. Dr. Dragica Vujadinovic. The Deputy Ambassador for Germany in Serbia, Dorothea Gieselmann, then spoke about the German contribution towards Serbia’s preparation for entry to the EU. During her speech, she presented the process for accession to the EU and the current status of Serbia’s preparations for joining. Dorothea Gieselmann explained how Germany was supporting the process, as well as talking about the current lack of progress in rule of law reforms, which represents the main obstacle for continuing negotiations, and described the present situation in the EU ahead of Germany’s takeover of EU Council presidency.

Following on from her lecture, the audience showed their interest by asking plenty of questions. The fact that one of the issues addressed was the judgement of the Federal Constitutional Court on the purchase of government bonds by the European Central Bank is proof of how closely the Masters degree students are also monitoring legal developments in Germany.

The event was rounded off with a lecture by the IRZ Head of Section for Serbia, Dr. Stefan Pürner, on the specific challenges of interlingual communication in the legal field. This is particularly significant in the multilingual European Union, he said, with the various legal traditions of its member states. Dr. Pürner spoke amongst other things about how the use of the English language inevitably leads to a loss of information during communications about legal issues between Continental European countries, since the English language cannot illustrate many of the legal institutions and dogmatic subtleties that are foreign to Common Law countries. The Slavic languages and German, on the other hand, are to a large extent compatible in this respect. Therefore, legal experts from Germany and Slavic countries communicating in English can be compared to an attempt to convert a piece of music from stereo to mono before using the result to turn it into a stereo recording again.

The event was not just open to past and present participants in the master’s course. Since it took place online and was advertised on LinkedIn, for example, many other interested parties also joined the event, who would not have been able to attend in person in Belgrade. They included many project partners, experts, representatives of members and alumni of IRZ, including:

  • Gudrun Steinacker, a former German Ambassador in Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro,
  • Michael Haußner, Secretary of State, (ret.), a former IRZ advisor to the Croatian and Montenegrin Ministers of Justice,
  • Winfried Schubert, former President of the Constitutional Court of the State of Saxony-Anhalt and of the Higher Regional Court of Naumberg,
  • Notary Richard Bock (ret.), former Vice-President of the German Federal Chamber of Notaries, and
  • Martin Knapp, Managing Director of the German-Serbian Chamber of Commerce.