29 Aug 2016

Gecić Law and DLA Secure EC Green Light for Air Serbia

CEE Legal Matters magazine reports that Gecić Law, together with DLA Piper, a London-based law firm, successfully represented Air Serbia during the European Commission’s investigation concerning Etihad Airways’ investment in the Serbian airline.  Following completion of the investigation, in July 2016, the European Commission concluded that the investment was permissible under EU rules.  This decision was of crucial importance for Air Serbia, while it also attested to the quality of the work done by the legal teams.

Air Serbia – a Strategic Partnership and a New Beginning

In August 2013, the Government of the Republic of Serbia and Jat Airways announced a strategic partnership with an airline from the United Arab Emirates, Etihad Airways.  The investment saw Etihad Airways’ acquire a 49-percent stake in Jat Airways, following which the latter was rebranded as Air Serbia. Established in 2003, Etihad Airways is the national airline of the United Arab Emirates headquartered in Abu Dhabi.

Less than a year after the strategic partnership was announced, ten Airbus aircraft were added to Air Serbia’s fleet. Subsequently, Air Serbia introduced direct flights to New York, increased the number of destinations it services and established itself as the region’s leading airline.

Proceeding Before the European Commission

According to CEE Legal Matters, in April 2014 the European Commission launched an investigation into Etihad’s investments in European airlines to determine whether those investments were in accordance with EU regulations. According to EU regulations, in order for the European Commission to greenlight such projects and for the airline to be licensed by the competent licensing authority, more than 50% of the company must be owned by a Member State or its nationals. Although not yet an EU Member State, the investigation also encompassed Serbia as a candidate country. Having decided that the transaction satisfied European Union rules governing ownership and effective control of airlines, the European Commission wrapped up the investigation in July 2016.

Team of Advisors

Gecić Law was led by Partner Bogdan Gecić and included Special Counsel Jelena Adamović, as part of the team specialized in Competition Law and European Law. The international legal adviser was DLA Piper, composed of partners Mark Franklin, Tony Payne, and Alexandra Kamerling and Senior Associate Geoffrey Deasy.

The Air Serbia in-house team was led by Nataša Vukšić — Air Serbia’s Head of Finance and Danijela Popadić, the company’s General Counsel & Company Secretary.

Authors: Suzana Dončić and Milica Nikolić