How Baker McKenzie Attys helped Ukraine apply to join the EU

By Emilie Lever | June 3, 2022, 8:03 p.m. EDT

Ukraine-based lawyers for Baker McKenzie LLP helped prepare the war-torn country’s bid to join the European Union, which was submitted last month during the ongoing Russian invasion.

A dozen lawyers, mostly based in Kyiv and Lviv, worked pro bono on Ukraine’s bid to join the bloc. The country formally applied on Feb. 28 in a move underscoring its diversion from Russia, which had attacked days earlier, and into Western Europe. Lawyers helped complete a questionnaire on Ukrainian corporate laws – including market entry and exit, business regulations, corporate governance, laws governing subsidiaries of foreign companies, bankruptcy proceedings , etc. – and the conformity of Ukrainian legislation with that of the EU.

“Our team is proud to help finalize the documents to obtain EU candidate status for our country,” Kyiv managing partner Serhiy Chorny said in a statement. “Ukraine regains its place in the European family by overcoming many challenges, including the war with the Russian aggressors. No doubt that this war will be won by Ukraine, and no doubt that Ukraine will become a very central and influential member of the European community. . We lawyers are doing our little work to achieve this goal faster.”

Serhiy Chorny

Baker McKenzie

Chorny led the team that worked on the questionnaire, which also included partner Hennadiy Voytsitskyi and associates Bogdan Dyakovych, Hanna Smyrnova, Olga Gavrylyuk, Oleksandr Savvi, Mykyta Stebliuk, Tetyana Zhuravska, Polina Korotka, Olha Sviatenka and Veronika Kalyta.

The team worked on parts one and two of a three-part questionnaire, which Ukraine received in April and returned to the European Commission on May 12. Each candidate country’s questionnaire is different and the team declined to comment on the content of the survey. . However, the questionnaires tend to be exhaustive. Georgia, which is also applying to join the bloc, publicly shared the first part of the questionnaire it received, with 369 questions covering everything from the procedure for amending the country’s constitution to privatizing state-owned enterprises. .

Office of Baker McKenzie in the Ukrainian capital suspended its operations for three weeks after the February 24 Russian invasion, with some personnel moving elsewhere in Ukraine and Europe. Although the office is now open, employees largely work from their homes or temporary residences in Ukraine or from company offices in cities such as Berlin, Brussels, Zurich, London and Warsaw, Poland. About 20 employees work from Kyiv, the company said.

This is not the first time that the firm’s local lawyers and staff have helped the Ukrainian government. The office’s founding partner, Ukrainian-American lawyer John Hewko, helped draft sections of Ukraine’s constitution in the 1990s, the firm told Law360. In recent years, Baker McKenzie said he has helped harmonize Ukrainian legislation with that of the European Union, including laws on electronic receipts and regulations on the construction sector. He also helped draft legislation on public-private partnerships for the country’s infrastructure.

Ukraine’s application for EU membership came at the same time as that of Georgia and another country in Russia’s sphere of influence, Moldova. Ukraine, however, could benefit from an accelerated deadline for EU membership, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyden told a press conference on April 8.

“It won’t be a matter of years as usual to form this opinion, but I think it will be a matter of weeks if we work closely together,” von der Leyden said as he ceremonially handed over the questionnaire to candidacy for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Ukraine says it expects its membership to be approved in June at the next European Council meeting. The bloc’s newest member, Croatia, joined in 2013, 10 years after applying for membership in 2003.

Membership of the EU must be approved unanimously by the current 27 member countries. Although the bloc has sent plentiful military aid, arms and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, members are Divided over accelerating Ukraine’s membership, he emerged at a March 10 meeting in Versailles, France.

Some influential EU countries, including France, Germany and Belgium, are bearish on this outlook. But eight Central and Eastern European countries, including Bulgaria, Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic States, support Ukraine’s membership of the Union.

On Friday, spokespersons for the European Commission did not respond to requests for comment.

Baker McKenzie has a long history not only in Ukraine but also in Russia, where it has been present since before the fall of the Soviet Union. Following the Russian invasion, the company in March announcement the splitting of its Moscow and St. Petersburg offices into a separate law firm. Lawyers at these offices have represented Russian public entities that have been sanctioned by the US government, including VTB, Gazprom, Rostec and Rusnano, according to the firm’s website.

The war has not stopped the work of Ukrainian employees at Baker McKenzie, managing partner Chorny told Law360.

“The Kyiv office continues to accept and offload client assignments,” Chorny said, “and is also actively involved in a number of pro bono projects like the one related to the EU application questionnaire.”

–Edited by Jill Coffey.

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