At Harris Sliwoski, we keep close tabs on what is happening around the world, and we know that our friends and clients do, as well. We are happy to provide this podcast series: Global Law and Business, hosted by international attorneys Fred Rocafort and Jonathan Bench, where we look at the world by talking with business leaders, innovators, service providers, manufacturers, and government leaders around the world.

In Episode #56, we are joined by Katarzyna Kuźma, a partner at Polish law firm DZP.

We discuss:

  • Katarzyna’s multinational career path, which includes studies in Germany and several years working in Barcelona.
  • Who are Katarzyna’s client, and in which kind of matters does she represent them?
  • Overseas expansion by Polish firms.
  • The all-encompassing impact of EU law on Poland.
  • Poland’s resilient economy and its post-COVID prospects.
  • China’s growing influence in Central and Eastern Europe.
  • Listening, and watching recommendations from:

We’ll see you next week for another exciting and informative episode when we sit down with Moses Wanki Park to discuss Korea, Hong Kong, and more.

This podcast audio has been transcribed by an automatic transcriber.

Fred Rocafort  0:07 

Global law and global business go hand in hand, but never seem to keep pace with each other. The importance on the global stage of developing and developed nations waxes and wanes, while consumption and interconnectedness steadily increase all the while laws and regulations change incessantly requiring businesses to stay nimble. But how do we make sense of it all? Welcome to global law and business hosted by Harris Sliwoski International Business attorneys. I’m Fred rocker Ford,


Jonathan Bench  0:37 

and I’m Jonathan Bench. Every week, we take a targeted look at legal and economic developments in locales around the world as we try to decipher global trends in law and business with the help of international experts. We cover continents, countries, regimes, governance, finance, legal developments, and whatever is trending on Twitter. We cover the important the seemingly unimportant, the relatively simple and the complex.


Fred Rocafort  1:02 

We hope you enjoy today’s podcast. Please connect with us on social media to comment and suggest future topics and guests.


Katarzyna Kuźma heads the public procurement and environmental protection teams at DZP, the leading Polish law firm where she specializes in both polish and European Union law. She also has the team serving Spanish speaking clients and has extensive experience in advising on international investment projects. Katharina Welcome to Harris Sliwoski’s Global Law and Business.


Katarzyna Kuźma  1:46 

Thank you very much. Thank you for having me today.


Jonathan Bench  1:48 

Katarzyna, we would love to hear more about your background. We’d love to hear about how you became a lawyer what you’ve been doing in your legal profession. We know that you’ve spent time working at Spanish law firms, and we’re particularly interested in that.


Katarzyna Kuźma  2:02

Oh, thank you for that question. So to answer it, please let me share with you my personal story, which may say something about Poland today. So as you may remember, the transition from a socialist centralized economy to the market economy started in 1989. And it is a bit difficult to calculate. But the average monthly remuneration polling at the time was around 30 US dollars only. So in the early 90s, I was starting to evaluate my college options. And my father suggested that maybe I should study abroad. But you can imagine that given the circumstances, it sounded like a very crazy idea. Poland was not an member, EU member and the average Pole didn’t have the financial resources, or even the language skills needed to go abroad. But finally, we found a way as Germany was about to create the European University we agree not just on the Polish quarter, allowing Central and Eastern European students to enroll with a scholarship. So the idea was to start the integration process between Western and Eastern Europe with open minded young people. So it was like a kind of investment in the future. And also what is also important fiddling allowed for the students to study German and Polish law at the same time, which was definitely a great opportunity for me, so I went for it. And from that point, being the student at the German university, I was admitted to the Erasmus program in Barcelona in Spain. So Barcelona is a great city beautiful city, and after finishing university, I decided to stay for a while in Barcelona and ended up living there for seven years. So I got the place in the Barcelona office of a German law firm. And after that, I switched to the Spanish Monereo Meyer where I worked for three years. And then I met Nadja Vietz the current current head of your office in Barcelona who became a friend of mine. We worked together in the litigation team. It was possible because I was also admitted to the Spanish bar. And finally in 2006, I received a proposal from disappea. My current filming Poland, Spanish investments were booming in Central and Eastern Europe and somebody with Spanish experience was needed to run our Spanish desk. So I think this story is said to be the story of Poles of my generation to be open to new opportunities and not to be afraid of change.


Fred Rocafort  4:47 

I’d like to follow up on your answer. You mentioned that Spanish investment was booming in Central Europe at the time, I’d like to learn a little bit more about the kinds of Spanish companies that were investing in that part of the world,


Katarzyna Kuźma  5:01 

So basically, we’re talking about complaints coming from all sectors of the economy, but, but a lot of them also involved in the infrastructure and energy sector. So a number of big construction construction companies. So finally, after being a litigation lawyer, I became basically a public procurement public contracts lawyer. And right now, I am advising a number of international clients coming from many different jurisdictions. So not only from Spain, but also from basically everywhere, everywhere, including, including China, so. So yeah, I work on infrastructure and energy projects. Many also have environmentally related projects in public contracts.


Fred Rocafort  5:53 

Thank you, thank you for that. I’m always curious as to the the daily life of counterparts in other in other countries, of course, even here, in the United States there, there, there is no such thing as a typical lawyer, there are lawyers doing all kinds of things. And My typical day is going to be very different from that of a lawyer in another in another state or doing other other kinds of work. But that said, I’d be very interested in hearing what a typical day looks like for you. I know that there’s probably not such a thing. I’m sure there’s there’s quite a bit of difference from day to day. But but just in general, if you could kind of put together sort of rough approximation of what, quote unquote, normal day looks like for you. That would be very interesting, for example, just some of the things that that I’d be interested in. Do you go to court regularly? Or is that something that you don’t have to do? A how much interface do you have with with clients? Is there much travel involved to project sites? Other cities in Poland, perhaps other cities in Europe?


Katarzyna Kuźma  7:06 

Oh, you are totally right. So there is no such thing for me a typical day, I mean, so there is a before COVID and post COVID reality also. So as other advice, the number of international clients from many different jurisdictions before COVID, I used to travel a lot. And because in my view, having a personal relationship with a client and building up trust, over time, are crucial for business. But I’m also quite active in several international lawyers, organizations, and used to speak at conferences, seminars, etc. Unfortunately, this part of impersonal meetings is now very limited, but we still meet online. And, okay, as  a government contracts lawyer. So in 2020, I was very lucky to work on major infrastructure and energy projects in the country. So for example, there, the major two biggest one was the Baltic pipe project, which involves the construction of a guy’s gas pipeline connection under the Baltic Sea between Norway, Denmark and Poland. So it was highly important not only, I would say, even crucial for for energy security in Poland. So it involves a lot of meetings with with the client, our client here, it was caste system, but also with the contact parts. Talking about court. Yes, that is a special court dealing with public procurement, public contracts issues. So it’s so yes, I’m quite regular. And apart from that, so in October 2020, together with my counterpart to cartong, I published a book on collusion, public procurement, we were very happy when it was published in English by elkaar Publishing House in UK. So I was also very busy with the book by the time and whatever. So most importantly, I have two children, two boys, a Spanish husband living in Warsaw and missing the sunshine, my sports activities, so no time to be bored.


Jonathan Bench  9:18 

I have some personal questions for you now, because I have I have five children. So I’m always curious about the juggling professional and personal interests. You mentioned sporting interests. So I assume with a Spanish husband, maybe football is big in your family, but what do you do for your personal activities when you’re getting exercise and spending time outdoors?


Katarzyna Kuźma  9:36 

Oh, not at all. My husband is not interested in football, which is strange. I agree. So in my case, I’m basically running. So this is what I try to do almost every day and now with the COVID situation. This is also an activity which is possible because some activities are not possible anymore.


Jonathan Bench  9:58 

And how much are you interacting With, with lawyers or businesses to, to your eastern side, you know, we’re talking Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. How much how much of your work is eastward looking at how much is westward looking?


Katarzyna Kuźma  10:14 

So the most of my clients or clients for from coming from Western Europe, United States or China, Honestly speaking, we have also a very good relationship with the Baltic states. And some of them are coming from from the to Anu, for example, we have Russia, we do not have a lot of relationship business relationship. So actually I and and moreover, I’m not in charge of the breaches. So. So mostly I’m working with Western Europe, countries and overseas countries.


Jonathan Bench  10:51 

And how much of your practice is involving the interplay between Polish and EU law? We’d love to hear more about, you know, as coming from the west, we don’t, we are, we’re learning Fred and I have learned quite a bit from our international guests who are in Europe. But we always like to get different perspectives on, on how much EU law impacts the way that you are doing your practice and your clients are doing business. How does that work? And what are some things that that you think are interesting that we should know about that?


Katarzyna Kuźma  11:22 

So I would say 100%, because in my case, the public procurement law, public contracts law is based on the European directives. And as you probably know, Poland is a member of the EU since 2004. So we had to adapt our legislation to EU laws directives. And we did so as the other central and European countries. So please remember, remember that as a country, that benefits from EU funds, the public beneficiaries, public authorities are constantly being audited and checked by national and EU institutions. So any deviation from Euros may be may result in so called financial adjustments, meaning the cons have to be returned. So sometimes I have the feeling that we are applying euros more strictly than our Western colleagues. This is at least perspective, my perspective as public contracts lawyer.


Fred Rocafort  12:22 

So while we are on this general subject, it is worth mentioning that you are our first guest from Eastern Europe, which is it’s unfortunate, and it’s something that we’ve been we’ve been trying to remedy for a while. And we thank you for allowing us to do that. And I say it’s unfortunate, because it really is a very interesting regions are so there’s there’s a lot happening. And I’m glad we’re finally able to, to talk to a guest from there. On that note, could you perhaps give us an overview of what is happening? What is the general climate in Poland and the region and I understand that you’re in Poland, obviously, your your your knowledge of what’s happening, there might be more extensive than what is happening in other in other countries in the region. But still, to the extent that you could you could shed some light on what’s happening, that would be great. One thing that I will note is that it seems that these days, whenever we hear about Eastern Europe, or most of the time, when we hear about Eastern Europe, it’s usually in connection with, let’s say the the direction that some of the governments in the region are taking towards a stronger style of governance. We hear this a lot in connection to the Hungarian government. But sometimes Poland gets gets caught up in that. At the same time, I’m sure that there’s a lot more happening. I would imagine that there are some interesting developments On the economic front. And in fact, from what you’ve described so far, about your your work, that definitely seems to be the case. My suspicion is that there is a lot more that we should know about Eastern Europe. So we’d love to have your thoughts on that.


Katarzyna Kuźma  13:55 

That’s a great question. So yes, indeed, news coverage can sometimes paint unsettling picture, especially when it comes to political or ideological matters. However, if we look at the larger picture, Pollan’s impressive development over the last 30 years and of course, the current economic situation, we see that actually we have to do with a progressive country will come in innovation and new technologies, and most importantly, the full of opportunities for investors. So of course, now Poland is located in central Europe and has access to the entire EU market. So from the logistics point of view, it’s perfect investment destination. It’s also a large consumer market with a population of over 38 million people. Currently the sixth largest economy in the EU, and because because beneficiary of your funds so When it comes to post COVID measures, our country will receive more than five of the 57 billion euros as part of the recovery plan for 2021 2026. So I think it’s, it’s very interesting for potential investors. And I would also say that our economy’s crisis resilient because we had no research in the last 30 years. It is worth highlighting that over the last decade before COVID pandemic, when many countries faced a serious financial crisis, Poland was named as a Green Island in Europe, we were the only economy in the EU not to be affected by recession during the previous global crisis, and our GDP was growing constantly. So the last year was, of course, a bit difficult to path in 2021, our GDP grow again by 3.5%, approximately. So this is not the target itself. And regarding labor costs, so they are still much lower than in other EU, European countries, our labor law is more flexible than in Western Europe countries. So I think it’s a very interesting place for investment. And they are many opportunities in many different sectors. I already mentioned infrastructure and energy, but also environmental protection related projects, tech sector, manufacturing industry. And of course, right now very important pharmaceutical and healthcare sector. So what I mentioned before there is this Costco video recovery fund. And it is expected to catalyze investment in growing segments, including renewables, electromobility, electricity storage, hydrogen technology, but also digitalization and healthcare sector. So I think there is a plenty of opportunities and actually, as lawyers who are really very busy with domestic and foreign products for investments.


Jonathan Bench  17:13 

Katarzyna, I’m I’m very curious about the generational changes, right. I mean, you mentioned your about your growing up experience in the late 90s, mid to late 90s, and how things have changed significantly in the past 20 to 30 years. So now you as a mother, I’m very curious how how you and your husband, talk to your children, how your friends talk to their children, about where Poland has been, and also what the future looks like, how do you talk to your children and and what’s their outlook on their future? I’m very interested to hear that.


Katarzyna Kuźma  17:44 

it’s very difficult question because maybe we’re not a typical Polish family, Polish Spanish family and so, the the proud is, is maybe a little bit different. So, our children are growing in both cultures. So, we are visiting on regular basis Spain, Barcelona and our Spanish family. And for them is really Europe, like, like, almost one country. So they are quite used to travel quite used to speak in different languages, they think, in both polish and Spanish, my, my older son already speaks English. So, so for them traveling through Europe, to to meet different people from different jurisdictions, like they need day to day stuff, you know, so not nothing strange for them. So, it is not like in my case, that I went abroad for the first time on when I was already an adult almost. So for them, they started traveling when when they were come out. So, you can imagine very, very big change and very different approach. So we, we speak at home in two languages, I used to work in foreign languages almost at the same time. So they, they grow used to that, basically, and I am very happy about it. Because because now they they see a lot of different characters, they have a chance to meet different people and and it’s much better so that the starting point is much better. For example, 30 years ago or 40 years ago, in my case,


Jonathan Bench  19:34 

That’s great and great perspective. Thank you for sharing that. And how would you say, how does that compare to what your friends maybe your family or if you have siblings, but what of their experience has been like with their children? Because you mentioned you’re you’re a Polish Spanish household What about the typical Polish household?


Katarzyna Kuźma  19:51 

So I would say that they are course are very open minded. So we really we were really very happy joining the European Union Young and a lot of Poles went abroad for studying or for working. So so so now generally speaking, our societies are quite open minded. So it could be different for example, in in smaller towns or places in farming, but I think that generally speaking, they’re the people living in big cities like like Warsaw. So it’s very international community. And people also work for different industries, foreign companies, with its branches and branches and in industries here in Poland. So I, I really think that we enjoy being a part of the European Union, despite some some political differences, or ideological differences we might have from time to time.


Jonathan Bench  20:53 

Thank you. That’s all very interesting perspective. Now, speaking of cosmopolitan, we love talking about China.China is everywhere in the world. We love talking about what the state owned enterprises are doing, what the entrepreneurs are doing, how they’re interacting around the world. And so would you say that Poland and the Eastern European neighbors are well aligned with the rest of Europe on China policy or their different outlooks? also curious kind of what the typical typical poll would think about China’s rise and how China is doing in the world, and particularly what China is doing in Eastern Europe?


Katarzyna Kuźma  21:29 

This is a tricky question, because, for example, the relationship by lack of relationship between Chinese and Polish administration is at least correct or really quote, so for example, recently that would provide administration’s discussed cooperation in various fields in the pandemic and post pandemic area. So including urbanization of assignment of the 17, plus one initiative in 2021, or progress in the Belt and Road initiative. So on this level, I would say nothing to comment on. So however, we are, of course, a part of European Union, and the role of European Union and United States policy regarding China must also be taken into account. So now, we are waiting for the EU China comprehensive agreement on investment to be signed. And let’s see what will happen afterwards. But, but you asked how we react or what what do you think about Chinese investment here in the in the region. So it is important to mention that the C region and I’m talking now about countries belonging to European Union, can be seen as quite a new one for Chinese investors, because they have of course, been carrying out projects in the region for many years now, though, not as intensely as in Western Europe, countries saw the development of the region and the number of business opportunities make Sea region, an appealing location for new investors from China. But this is quite new, I would say. So, we have some some Chinese investors interested in in participating or in large tenders, or executing projects, not only in the construction or energy sectors, but also in the health sector, waste management or the IT sector. But this is quite new, what I would say. So it is not like in Western Europe that you have, like a long tradition of Chinese investors being present. It’s like, like the tendency which we are observing right now, in our firm.


Fred Rocafort  23:49 

I want to jump back a little bit. I’m a little bit curious, when when we were talking about your work and the greater focus that you have on investment from the west as opposed to the east I I’m a little bit curious as to where Polish companies fit into all this are Polish companies going into some of the non EU markets to the east, you did mention that there’s a close relationship with with the Baltics, but I’m thinking of places like the Ukraine places or perhaps even in the in the Caucasus are Polish companies going there and sort of taking advantage of the position that they have being from EU economy and a large one that that is that happening, our Polish brands making their presence felt in in some of the markets further east.


Katarzyna Kuźma  24:41 

I would say that after 40 years of the transition, so our companies are right now Polish companies are big enough to go abroad and clean just abroad and No, I wouldn’t say they are investing, investing already in these. So so first Companies are basically interested in the, in the Western European countries as well, they are active also in the eastern Eastern Europe, but also going farther to, for example, the South, in South America or other locations. So this is a trend which we are also observing and trying to support our clients with this, this project. So it could be direct investments are just the business relationships, which are growing. And it’s, it’s clearly the future so so that the market is in the position, that we are not only receiving the foreign investment, but also investing abroad. Of course, you could think that, for example, being polish, it makes easier for us to invest in Eastern Europe or in Russia, because because 40 years ago, 40 years ago, of course, we are studying Russian. And it could be easier, actually, due to the political situation and difficult political relationship with Russia is actually not the not the case. But we also privacy desk in our firm, and we have some products we do have some products in in Eastern Europe as well.


Fred Rocafort  26:25 

I’m curious, you mentioned South America that definitely set some some bells off in my head. Just curious, because I have to admit that I am very ignorant when it comes to to the Polish business world. Well, I I definitely would struggle coming up with the name of of any Polish company other than the airline right, I think that’s the only Polish company that I could name. So what are some of the industry some of the sectors that are that are leading this charge to to invest overseas? I mean, for example, if I were to run across a Polish brand or the office of a Polish company in South America, what would it be? What would be the likely identity of that of that product or company?


Katarzyna Kuźma  27:12 

So Polish economy is very diverse. So we had a we have companies dealing, basically are working in many different sectors, but but what what I mentioned affinities for example, Polish IT sector, so I don’t know it and games sector. So I don’t know, for example, about CD product, which basically, they’re very famous game producer. And this company is polish. Another sector I could I could mention is for example, bass producer salaries, they are very active on many different markets and basically they are exporting buses everywhere. So I remember that was I was asked for a proposal for for solar facilities, for public tenders in 24 different countries in the world. So they are really active in tendering everywhere, and quite successful selling selling those buses. So another sector which is doing very, very well is cosmetics. So I know that Polish firms are selling also everywhere for example, China is a big market for Polish cosmetics, so it’s it’s also one of the sectors of the future. So as you As you may see, we are talking about many very, very different sectors of the economy and but but I have to mention that this process started only some time ago so it’s not like we are not not the country traditionally exporting but exporting and making investments is everywhere it was vice versa for a long time so we were receiving foreign investments here in Poland now we now these trends are a little bit different. So maybe also agriculture. So pollen piece a big country with a strong agriculture. So also the food producers are doing very well on the international markets.


Fred Rocafort  29:30 

I didn’t realize Solaris was a was a Polish company. So So thanks for that. I have seen their buses, right. So there There you go. That’s so that’s a second company and I as I did a little bit of thinking I also remember that there are Polish aircraft manufacturers, at least one of them until pretty recently, I think, at least was was making aeroplanes I could be a little bit off on that. So as I thought about it, I realized Okay, there’s there’s a little bit more, which is not to say that my ignorance is not there. Catarina I’ve really enjoyed This this conversation, learned a lot really glad we were able to have you on the on the podcast. One last thing, we always end our shows with recommendations by by all of us. So I’d like to ask you, if you have anything you could you could recommend whether it’s a movie, you’ve seen a TV show that you’re watching book that you’ve read a magazine article, whatever it is, we’d love to hear it.


Katarzyna Kuźma  30:25 

Oh, thanks. So I used to read in the original language if I can. And obviously, I will never go into the English literature because it’s something you know better than the lie. But for example, regarding the Spanish literature, I am a big fan of Javier Maria’s a very famous novelist. I haven’t read his last book, there must have been some but the previous one, but a slice was fantastic. And it is translated into English as well. If you are interested in German, German writing books, so maybe Marc Elsberg books could be an option. You have probably heard about blackout. Due to the English title. Some people think the book was written in English, which is not the case, because actually the original language was, was German. And finally, from the Polish literature, which could be translated into English, I could recommend the works of Olga Tokarczuk who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018. So it could be also something of interest,


Fred Rocafort  31:34 

What is the name of the last author?


Katarzyna Kuźma  31:36 

Olga Tokarczuk. Sorry, for the this is, again, the Polish name difficult to pronounce.


Fred Rocafort  31:43 

I’m sure we’ll find her, I have to say that I think that of all the different advantages that one gets from from speaking other languages. Without doubt, for me, at least one of the most important is that ability to read other literature in its original form. And I confess that all sometimes steer clear of literature from other countries, or Britain in languages that I can’t read, just because I know that I’ll be missing out. But But you’re you’re definitely in a good position where it when it comes to being able to appreciate literature in its original form. And hopefully, there’s between our German listeners or and polish listeners at a force our listeners who speak Spanish, there’s enough people that can can benefit from these recommendations. So so thank you for that. And Jonathan, do you have anything for us


Jonathan Bench  32:35 

This week, I wanted to recommend something article that one of our attorneys in our firm recommended to us which is called navigating PPE transactions during a global pandemic. So an article in the international law quarterly, and you and I have been engaged in a lot of PP transactions over the past 12 months. And this is a great overview for the kinds of things to watch out for, you know, fraud detection, including who you’re dealing with, and how the market is working. Behind the scenes. You know, a lot of times as lawyers, we sit down, and we have, we have contracts in front of us, and we see the world through those contracts. And so it’s a lot of fun to get beyond the contracts and understand those market dynamics that are happening, especially within the world of PBE, where we’ve got so many brokers involved. And that’s typical in international trade scenarios. But it’s also even more so in the broker world where the commodity right now that’s being transacted across the world is various PP articles, so highly recommend that navigating PB transactions during a global pandemic. Fred, what about you?


Fred Rocafort  33:38 

Well, I was a little bit scared when you said you were going to recommend something written by one of our colleagues because I thought I see going to recommend what I had and what I had in mind, but it isn’t I wanted to highlight the reporting that our colleague Simon Malinovski is doing on New York’s cannabis legalization. Simon is heading up our New York office, and he’s been tracking what’s happening in New York very closely. We are recording on the first of April, right in the midst of the legalization push in New York. Perhaps by the time this episode is published, things will be slightly more settled. But you can be sure that Simon and our canon law blog are going to be keeping you up to date on what’s happening with legalization in New York, which is a very exciting development with New York’s law. It becomes the second largest state really to set up a legal framework for recreational cannabis after after California. So it’s a very promising development. I mean, hopefully it will lead to a lot of job creation and just economic development, right just because it’s such such a large market and then things are happening next door and New Jersey. The sticking to our east west theme. We’re seeing like the US has cannabis SMAP is sort of balancing out a little bit and heading east. So as always, we will provide links to, to all of the recommendation, but check out Simon’s work on New York legalization. And with that, Catarina, I’d like to thank you once again for your your appearance. We really enjoyed it, and certainly hope we can have a repeat and look at these topics in more depth in the future.


Jonathan Bench  35:24 

It was really great to meet you. Thank you very much. We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. We look forward to connecting with you on social media to continue discussing developments in global law and business. This podcast was produced by Harris Sliwoski with executive producer Madeline Williams music composed by Stephen Schmid. Tune in next week for another episode. We’ll see you then.


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