Newsroom / News / Media / Info Magazine LGP NEWS 02/2020 / From Minister to a successful international lawyer

From Minister to a successful international lawyer

From Minister to a successful international lawyer

Arlind Zeqiri, managing partner at LGP Skopje, looks back in an interview with LGP News on his successful career taking him from a childhood in the predominantly Albanian north of his native North Macedonia to Austria and Switzerland and later on to becoming one of the youngest ministers in the country’s history. 

Mr. Zeqiri, before teaming up with international business law firm Lansky, Ganzger + partner, you had an illustrious career in North Macedonian economic diplomacy and politics. Could you give us a brief overview of your most important career steps and what impelled you to pursue them? 

Arlind Zeqiri: Before joining forces with LGP, I worked in both the private and public sector, but always with a focus on cross-border business and investment. You could say that my previous jobs prepared me for my current work bridging Balkans and EU markets as a business lawyer and consultant. 

Previously, I worked at the North-West Chamber of Commerce of North Macedonia, led the Agency for Foreign Direct Investment and Export Promotion of the Republic of North Macedonia – „Invest in Macedonia“ in Bern, Switzerland, and then became the Minister for Foreign Investments in my home country. 

Asked to explain what impelled me on the path that I am pursuing, I would say that the time I grew up in, my formative years, played an important part. I was born in Tetovo in North Macedonia during the early 1980s, a time when the former Yugoslavia went through a systemic transition to a market economy necessitated by a deep economic crisis. The privatizations, the capital controls and currency devaluation were badly planned and executed and left the country and the impoverished people with very little. I believe this instilled in my generation a will to work hard for success. 

A second defining period was my time in Vienna as a young man, where I also first met Dr. Lansky. Looking for new challenges, I decided to follow the advice of friends who lived and studied in Vienna and told me about its beauty and cultural diversity as well as the opportunities it offered. I came here to continue my master studies in Diplomacy and Strategic Studies. Living in Vienna has taught me many things, among others about diverse cultural perspectives, acceptance and social coherence, values which shaped the person I am today. Therefore, Vienna will always have special place in my heart. 

Did your work with the North-West Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of North Macedonia set the course for the rest of your career trajectory? How did you happen upon this position? 

Zeqiri: After finishing my studies in Vienna, I returned to North Macedonia as a teaching assistant at the University of Tetovo. Parallelly I started working at the International Relations Department of the North-West Chamber of Commerce. After a while, I was called by the then-Deputy Prime Minister for EU Affairs to develop an economic development plan for the city of Tetovo. The Deputy Prime Minister wanted to run for the Mayor of Tetovo in the next elections; I accepted this challenge and became part of the successful campaign team. Afterwards, I worked as the Managing Director of the Centre for Development of the Polog Region. 

What did your work at “Invest in Macedonia” in Switzerland, your home country’s investment promotion agency, entail? 

Zeqiri: Invest in Macedonia was embedded with the official diplomatic mission, giving me the status of First Secretary at the Embassy in Bern. The job entailed the full spectrum of economic diplomacy, including regular contact with all relevant Swiss and North Macedonian companies, market research, the identification of economic sectors of interest to potential investors, establishing regular communications with economic bodies, chambers of commerce and other business associations in the country, providing assistance to the competent institutions in the Republic of North Macedonia, organizing official visits and the like. 

Concerning your position as Minister for Foreign Direct Investment, could you briefly describe how you and your cabinet worked on attracting foreign investors to North Macedonia? 

Zeqiri: What we did was quite straight-forward: creating the best possible environment for investors in North Macedonia, establishing a one-stop-shop within the government structures which investors could contact for all questions and issues and which would assist them to gain necessary permits and contacts for their business ideas. 

In addition, we worked hard – and frankly quite successfully – to improve North Macedonia’s ranking in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business index. This is of course not a goal in itself, but the index quite accurately represents how good or bad the environment of investors is in terms of the regulatory frameworks and other important aspects. It also ensures good PR, of course. 

After your term as minister ended, how did you come to manage the Skopje branch of one of Central Europe’s most renowned business law firms as an international lawyer and business consultant? And how can you translate the skills and insights gained in your previous positions to assist your clients at LGP? 

Zeqiri: My time in Vienna has influenced me strongly and I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Lansky there. When I was looking for new challenges after my time as minister, there were some obvious synergies with LGP, such as the firm’s focus on the SEE region and international business clients as well as its reputation for working at the intersection of law, business and politics. I also appreciate that LGP takes pride in giving pragmatic, goal-oriented advice – get the job done instead of producing academic legal analyses is an approach that is lacking in may law firms. 

With our LGP Skopje office, we offer European companies a new bridgehead in the Balkans, and Balkans companies an entry point into Austria and Central Europe. Of course, our EU clients benefit from my network and my knowledge of the local political and business landscape, just as our Balkans clients benefit from the networks and experience of our partners at LGP Vienna.

It must be noted that the DACH countries – Germany, Austria, and Switzerland – are still the most important investors in the Balkans as well as the top export locations for Balkans companies. Thus, the combination of LGP’s very strong position in these markets, my own networks in Austria and Switzerland, and my detailed knowledge of the local conditions in the Balkans make for a perfect combination. 

It is notable that your cohort has yielded an impressive number of highly successful entrepreneurs, businessmen, and politicians. Do you have any explanation why your generation from the region around Tetovo is often so successful? 

Zeqiri: Most of the young businessmen and entrepreneurs hailing from the northern part of North Macedonia come from families which emigrated to the West. This has given them the opportunity to carry the Western culture of doing business to our country, resulting in extraordinary success in the business world. 

You are working very hard, travelling constantly between Skopje, the Balkan countries, Austria, Switzerland and further abroad. What is your next goal, either professional or personal? 

Zeqiri: My current work engagement is very dynamic, therefore requesting much time, dedication and commitment, yet it is very diverse with much opportunities for challenge and growth. Each day for me is an opportunity to learn from people and partners I work with, which knowledge serves in benefit of my further career development and in creating new business opportunities. 

Besides my professional life, I am happily married with two children, a seven-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son. Although having a very dynamic work situation with much travelling, I try to spend as much quality time as possible with my family. 

Interview Partner:

Arlind Zeqiri, M.A., Managing Partner and Member des Senior Expert Council bei LANSKY, GANZGER + partner North Macedonia

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