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When the process of transition to a market economy started in central and eastern Europe, insolvency systems served principally as a conduit to filter public assets to the private sector. Generally, this was done inefficiently and without appropriate institutional and regulatory framework. Substantial reform efforts have since contributed in the EBRD region to an improved insolvency culture and legal practice to distribute, re-distribute, or use assets from a failed business more efficiently, effectively and fairly through liquidation or reorganisation.

Why reform is needed

The current financial crisis highlights the fact that credit automatically flows to places where creditors are fairly treated. Modern insolvency systems and debtor-creditor regimes are the cornerstone of sustainable economic development and provide a safety valve for financial failures.

  • Predictable insolvency regimes encourage creditors to work with debtors to avoid the closure of a business rather than opportunistically withdrawing credit and seizing assets at the first hint of financial distress.
  • Strong insolvency laws promote distribution, re-distribution and use of assets from failed businesses more efficiently, effectively and equitably.
  • In many transition countries in central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, insolvency provisions are unadapted to newly established market economies. Legal reform and technical assistance are needed to modernise rules and procedures to reach international standards of best practice.

The EBRD's role

The EBRD supports transition countries to revise their insolvency laws and implementing institutions. Early in the transition effort, the EBRD assisted Azerbaijan and the Kyrgyz Republic. The Bank also assisted Russia to develop implementation regulations for one of its early insolvency law revisions in the mid-1990s.

There is increasing recognition that efficiency of insolvency regimes depends on the quality of institutions such as the judiciary, insolvency administrators and professional organisations for insolvency practitioners, as much as on the legal provisions.  Recently the Bank worked with the Bankruptcy Supervision Agency of Serbia on the publication of a Manual on the National Standards and Code of Ethics for Bankruptcy Administrators.  The Manual, published in autumn 2010, provides interpretation and practical advice in respect of national standards and ethics for insolvency administrators, which were developed with the earlier assistance of the Bank.  The Bank is now working with authorities in the Russian Federation on the development of professional standards and a code of ethics for insolvency administrators

Insolvency laws assessment project

An assessment project to benchmark insolvency laws in each country against best international practices was conducted in 2009.  This assessment built on previous studies conducted in 2004 and 2006. In the assessment, the EBRD compared a checklist of benchmark issues to existing laws, regulations, decrees, and so on, in a given country. It incorporates the World Bank’s Principles and Guidelines for Effective Insolvency Systems, the UNCITRAL Legislative Guide on Insolvency Law, and the EBRD Insolvency Office Holder Principles. It enables the EBRD and each country to identify gaps, conflicts or other deficiencies in the insolvency legal framework.


Improved Legal Frameworks for Creditors. Nearly all jurisdictions scored highest in the 2009 Insolvency Sector Assessment in the area of creditor treatment. In fact more than half of the countries assessed scored their highest marks in this area, showing that the involvement of creditors in the process and the ability, profile, priority and equality of claims is improving in the region and features prominently in the laws.

Need for reform of Insolvency Office Holder Frameworks. As a whole, the laws and regulatory frameworks governing insolvency of office holders needs improvement to ensure proper qualification and licensing of insolvency administrators and to ensure they act within clear and effective standards of professional and ethical conduct. Very few countries were rated as  "High" or "Very High" compliance in the 2009 Insolvency Sector Assessment and a startling number were rated as "Very low" compliance in this area, signalling a clear need for reform.

Reorganisation procedures still need reform. The 2009 Insolvency Sector Assessment confirmed that reorganisation remains a weakness in many insolvency laws throughout the region. 

Further reading

Debt enforcement in times of uncertainty
Law in transition, Spring 2010

Making an insolvency system work (2MB - PDF)
Law in transition online, Autumn 2007

The case for debtor-in-possession financing in early transition countries: Taking a DIP in the distressed-debt pool (3MB - PDF)
Law in transition online, Autumn 2004

Insolvency law and practice in Europe's transition economies
(775KB - PDF)
Butterworths Journal of international banking and financial law December 2004 (originally appeared in Butterworths Journal of International Banking and Financial Law)

Bankruptcy law: what is fair? (335KB - PDF) 
Law in transition, Spring 2000

Multi creditor restructuring in transition countries: lessons from developed jurisdictions (340KB - PDF) 
Law in Transition, Spring 2000

  • Core principles

    Core Principles for an Insolvency Law Regime.

  • Insolvency Assessments

    Since its inception, the EBRD’s Legal Transition Programme has made the assessment of laws and legal systems in its core focus areas a key component of its contribution to the reform of transition economies. 

  • International Standards

    International standards in insolvency have developed especially over the last few years.