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100 years after the Spanish flu, a new pandemic strikes the world, impeding free movement, considerably slowing down the world economy as well as seriously restricting the rights of the population.

We are living in unprecedent times. It is becoming increasingly clear that the COVID-19 pandemic will slow down economic activity substantially around the world, with the peak impact likely to be felt in the coming months.

How our teams are coping

Eurofast began implementing workplace collaboration apps amongst employees in its 22 cities across Europe well before the COVID-19 turmoil unfolded. We have implemented the use of such applications in all daily business processes in order to facilitate the interaction between employees and to maximize our company’s productivity.

With efficiency at its maximum, the communication between staff, be it written or verbal (audio & video) assists in the swift understanding and processing of tasks, therefore overcoming the obstacle created by unforeseeable situations. In fact, for Eurofast employees, such collaboration apps eliminate the difficulties created by external factors; team members are able to carry on with business as usual, including attending meetings, completing tasks, reporting and sharing of ideas.

We embraced such tools designed to streamline communication and enhance collaboration within the workplace, to have our teams’ communication centralized without the need for using several messaging apps between employees.

Thanks to our robust IT support in combination with workplace apps, #TeamEurofast continues to work remotely from the safety of their homes at maximum efficiency and proactivity. As a result, in order to assist our clients in every way possible, we have put together this guidebook, detailing the government’s measures to support the economy, in all 22 cities in South East Europe and the Middle East where we operate from. For more up to date information in a fast-moving crisis, please follow our social media channels.

Government measures implemented across SEEME (as of April 8, 2020)

Albania | North Macedonia | Montenegro | Georgia | Serbia | Romania | Greece | Bulgaria

Albania

On March 19th, due to the pandemic, the Albanian government officially declared a seven points package to support the economy. The below measures are part of the seven points plan and amendments of the Income Tax Law which may be of interest to businesses.

  • Support for businesses which have difficulties with salaries payments. Such businesses will be considered as low risk client to obtain credit loan from banks with lower interest. The Albanian National Bank has lowered the interest from 1% to 0.5 %;
  • Bank loans installments are postponed until May 31st, 2020;
  • Support with minimum monthly salary for small business’ employees;
  • Cancelation of late payment penalties of energy bills for small business;
  • CIT instalments reschedule for second part of the year for businesses with turnover up to EUR 114,000;
  • Postponement of financial statements’ submission until July 31st, 2020;
  • CIT payment deadline for the year 2019 is postponed from March 31st to the second six months of the year for businesses with turnover up to EUR 114,000;
  • CIT instalments payment deadline for the 1st and 2nd quarter of the year are postponed until December 31st, 2020 for businesses with turnover up to EUR 114,000.

The Government is supervising the situation in the country every day and – if necessary – the measures will be amended in accordance with the latest development of the pandemic situation.

The Albanian Government has declared a state of natural emergency.

One piece of good news in this challenging situation is that on March 25th, the European Union approved the commencement of membership negotiation for Albania & North Macedonia.

North Macedonia

The Government has announced assistance with social security contribution payments for April, May and June for affected companies. The government will partially cover the social security contributions during those months (up to 50% of the average salary contribution level). The assistance may be non-refundable depending on the financial results of each company. As an alternative, affected companies may request financial aid of up to EUR 250 per employee per month for the months of April, May and June. A number of conditions need to be fulfilled. Interested parties should contact Eurofast to obtain professional advice on eligibility and procedure.

A range of zero-interest small-business loans have also been promted by the national Development Bank. These loans assume a 6-month grace period and a 2-year repayment plan. Amounts range from EUR 3,000 to EUR 30,000 and depend on the number of employees in the affected companies.

Montenegro

The measures adopted on 19 March by the Montenegrin Government are:

  • Postponement of repayment of loans at the request of citizens and economy with all banks, micro-credit institutions and the Investment and Development Fund for 90 days;
  • Postponement of payment of taxes and contributions on earnings as well as obligations under the Law on Rescheduling of Tax Claims;
  • Creation of a new IRF credit line intended to improve the liquidity of entrepreneurs, micro, small, medium-sized and large enterprises up to a maximum amount of EUR 3 million per beneficiary. By a simplified procedure, no approval fee and an interest rate of only 1.5% is applicable. These funds are intended for companies operating in the field of procurement of medicine, medical equipment and vehicles; tourism and catering; traffic; services; food production and processing;
  • Provision of one-off financial assistance to the pensioners with the lowest pensions and beneficiaries of assistance in the amount of EUR 50 each. To this end, the Government allocated EUR 1 million;
  • Postponement of payment of lease of state-owned real estate, also for a period of 90 days;
  • Suspension of payment of variable pay and all budgetary allowances for work in commissions, steering committees and other working bodies. The state administration will suspend these payments, and will recommend that local governments do the same;
  • The Prime Minister added that the Cabinet members would allocate one-off payment in the amount of the half of their salaries to the account of the National Coordination Body for Communicable Diseases. He also asked for donations from all public officials;
  • Restriction and control of budget spending, with the prohibition of initiating all public procurement except those necessary for the functioning of the health system, that is, urgent procurement, in accordance with the provisions of the law;
  • At the same time, it is forbidden for budget users to make donor payments. The budget is unique and now its function is to preserve the health of citizens and ensure the functioning of the state;
  • Advance payment to service providers and contractors on started capital projects with the provision of a bank guarantee in the value of advance payment to ensure their liquidity and maintain continuity of works, where this does not endanger the health of citizens. The Prime Minister specified that the started capital projects will not be stopped because they are crucial to development and faster recovery of the economy and standard of living;
  • All measures related to the liquidity of the economy also apply to the entities that are the founders of the Montenegrin media.

Georgia

As a measure to fight the pandemic, Georgia announced a full ban on international travel and ordered the closure of all shops and businesses, with exceptions for essential services like food markets, drug stores, banks and gas stations.

Last Saturday, a state of emergency has been introduced, banning gatherings of more than 10 people.

The government has announced an assistance package for businesses and households. The collection of property and income taxes for companies in the hospitality industry will be deferred for the next four months. Most affected companies will have their debts restructured for the next three or four months. Moreover, physical entities will also be released from loan service obligation for the next three months, if the need arises.

Serbia

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) imposed mandatory temporary measures on banks and leasing companies in order to preserve the stability of Serbia’s financial system. Two decisions were adopted to that effect:

  1. Decision on Temporary Measures for Preserving the Financial System Stability; and
  2. Decision on Temporary Measures for Lessors Aimed at Preserving the Financial System Stability.

The measures oblige banks/ lessors to offer debtors/ lessees a suspension of payment obligations (moratorium) for no less than 90 days, or for the duration of the state of emergency declared due to the pandemic.

During the moratorium, banks and lessors will not charge any default interest on past due outstanding receivables and will not initiate enforcement or enforced collection procedures or take other legal actions to collect receivables.

The Government of Serbia has adopted an order pertaining to tax measures during the state of emergency. Article 2 of the Order pertains to natural and legal persons, agriculturists and entrepreneurs for whom a postponement of repayment of tax debts has been approved, in line with the provisions of Article 73 and Article 74 b of the Law of Tax Procedure and Tax Administration.

The taxpayers who have already signed the Agreement on Postponement of Tax Debt with the Tax Administration, to which Article 2 of the Order pertains, will not be subject to the measures proscribed by Article 74, Paragraphs 7-9 of the Law on Tax Procedure and Tax Administration, beginning with the installment which is due in March 2020. Please contact us for more information and custom-made assistance.

Romania

The Ministry of Public Finance will guarantee up to 80% of the value of the financing granted to SMEs.

  1. The maximum value of the credits / lines of credit for financing the working capital granted to a beneficiary cannot exceed the average of the expenses related to the working capital of the last two fiscal years, within the limit of 5 million lei. For investment loans, the maximum value of the financing is 10 million lei;
  2. For micro-enterprises or small enterprises, the state will grant guarantees for loans/ credit lines for financing working capital, excluding interest, commissions and bank charges related to the state guaranteed credit, at a maximum of 90%. The maximum value of the financing will be 500,000 lei for micro-enterprises and 1 million lei for small businesses;
  3. The maximum value of each financing granted to a beneficiary cannot exceed the average of the expenses related to the working capital of the last two fiscal years, within the limits provided for above;
  4. Interest is subsidized for loans;
  5. The Ministry of Public Finance will grant 100% of the interest for the loans to be guaranteed, both for micro and small and medium-sized enterprises.
  6. The interest will be subsidized from the moment of granting the loan until March 31, 2021;
  7. The granting of the interest subsidy is maintained in the years 2021-2022, starting with April 2021, only under the conditions in which the economic growth estimated by CNSP for these years is below the level registered in 2020 and is established by Government Decision.

The outstanding fiscal obligations and other budgetary debts will be paid from the loan/ credit line for working capital granted under the program.

The loan guarantee period/credit lines for working capital will be 36 months with the possibility of 36 months extension. For the investment loans the period of 120 months was maintained.

The Ministry of Public Finance will cover from the budget the administration commission to cover the costs of granting and monitoring the guarantees granted by the F.N.G.C.I.M.M.

Greece

The Greek Government unveiled new measures to combat Covid-19 impact. Some of these measures include:

  1. Special leave
    The beneficiaries of the special leave shall be the natural, adoptive or foster parents of children, provided that the children:
    • Are registered in nurseries
    • Attend compulsory education (kindergarten, primary and secondary school)
    • Attend special schools or special education units, regardless of the age of the children
    • Children have disabilities and are benefiting from open care services structures for people with disabilities, regardless of their age
  2. Employees
    All employees whose employment contract is temporarily suspended due to mandatory Governmental measures will receive compensation in early April amounting to €800.
    The Government fully covers the insurance rights, pension and health rights of employees and their social insurance contributions, based on their total nominal salary.
  3. Suspensions of taxes and contributions of undertakings
    The measures concern all, however, strictly those belonging to the sectors which are severely affected by the emergence and spread of the Covid-19.
    The measures are horizontal, as they concern all companies of specific Activity Number Codes (NACE), whether they remain open, operate part of their activity, close by government mandate, or close on their own Initiative. The period of application of the measures is March and, if necessary, an extension will be granted.
    For all undertakings in these sectors, the following payments shall be suspended for 4 months, i.e. until 31 July for the March debts, without interest and surcharges:
    • The payment of debts arising from VAT declarations, payable in March.
    • The payment of any kind of certified debts to the Tax Office or the Audit Centers.
    • The payment of instalments of arrangements for the payment of certified debts.
    • There has also been a reduction to 6%, from 24%, VAT on products necessary to protect against Covid-19 and to avoid its transmission
      • Masks and gloves
      • Antiseptic solutions, wipes and other preparations
      • Soap and other preparations for personal hygiene
      • Ethyl alcohol
  4. Other measures
    • The European Investment Bank will provide liquidity to banks for the granting of new business loans of EUR 2 billion;
    • In cooperation with the European Investment Bank group, a guarantee mechanism shall be established for investment loans of up to EUR 500 million;
    • The Entrepreneurship Fund of the Hellenic Development Bank is simplified and we increase its resources by EUR 250 million.

Bulgaria

The National Parliament of Republic of Bulgaria, after receiving a proposal from the Bulgarian Government, announced with its Decision dated 13.03.2020 to declare a state of emergency on the whole territory of Bulgaria from 13.03.2020 to 13.04.2020.

Between 13.03.2020 and 25.03.2020, the National Headquarters took series of measures each day. The situation in the country changed every day and as a result the measures became tougher and tougher. After adopting a Law for the Measures and Actions in a State of Emergency, which entered into force on 24.03.2020, the state received a direction for its further social, economic, financial and legal development for the following months.

General Measures

  • Until the end of the state of emergency, it is forbidden for the people to enter the Republic of Bulgaria, if they come from countries outside the EU and the European Schengen Area plus the following member-states: Great Britain and Northern Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece;
  • It is forbidden to travel between cities unless you are provided with a notice by the employer testifying that you work in another town, or for medical reasons;
  • It is forbidden to export medical supplies, disinfectants, other supporting medical materials used for protection;
  • All restaurants, theatres, cinemas, social gathering places, museums, cafes, etc. are closed except for food stores and pharmacies. Old people over 60 years old can go shopping only from 8:30 to 10:30 every morning.

STATE TAXES AND LEGAL TERMS. TAXES OVER REAL ESTATE PROPERTIES

The payment terms for the following have been prolonged until 30.06.2020:

  • Application of Annual Tax Declaration;
  • Declaration and payment of the corporate tax;
  • Declaration and payment of tax onthe activity of managing ships;
  • In case the whole property tax or vehicles tax is paid entirely until 30.06.2020, a discount of 5% is made by the respective tax body.

ANNUAL FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

  • The final term for the announcement of the Annual Financial reports of legal entities is 30.09.2020 (instead of 30.06.2020).
  • The final term for declaring a null activity for the previous year is prolonged until 30.06.2020 (instead of 30.03.2020).

SOCIAL SECURITIES’ PAYMENT AND DOCUMENTATION

  • The legally appointed terms for any issued document in relation with the social rights are prolonged until one month following the end of the state of emergency.
  • The non-issuing of an answer will not be accepted as a silent rejection of any request until 15 days after the end of the state of emergency.

COURT AND OTHER TERMS & LOAN PAYMENTS

As of 13.03.2020 and until the end of the state of emergency:

  • The legal terms in all courts, arbitrary and executive cases, excluding the terms in criminal proceedings, have been frozen;
  • Statute of limitations terms,as prescribed in the law, are frozen until the end of the state of emergency.

Some terms are prolonged by one month after the end of the state of emergency:

  • The terms, appointed in the law, outside these under p.3, which expire during the time of the state of emergency and which are connected with exercising rights or fulfillment of obligations of the physical persons;
  • The term of the administrative deeds, which is limited in time in case when it expires during the period of the state of emergency;
  • Until the end of the state of emergency, the penalty interest and compensation are not applicable if the payment of credit installments is late as well as other consequences such as preliminary termination, termination of credit agreement and confiscation of property.

LABOR RELATIONS BETWEEN EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES

The Employers, depending on the specific features of the respective job, can allocate employees to work from home (“home office”) or from a distance, except in cases when this is not possible.

  • The employer can also issue an order to stop the work at the company/enterprise, part of the work at the company/enterprise or to limit the number of employees with specific jobs for the whole period or for the part of the period of the state of emergency.
  • If the work at the respective enterprise/company is suspended with an Order by a state authority, the employer is obliged to not allow employees into their workplaces.
  • The employer can order the employees to use their annual paid leave or unpaid leave without the consent of the workers/employees.

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