08 October 2020
Category : Interview
“The main task of the Spanish Official State Gazette (known as the BOE) is the miracle of enforcing regulations and popularising knowledge of Spanish law”
We interviewed Manuel Tuero Secades, director of the Official State Gazette State Agency, for him to explain his participation in the modernisation of the Official Gazette of Cuba, within the framework of the European Union-Cuba II Exchange of Experiences project.
The European Union-Cuba II Exchange of Experiences project accompanies the Cuban government in the implementation of its socioeconomic policy through exchanging knowledge, experiences and best practice with other administrations. One of the actions in which the project has participated is the modernisation of the Official Gazette of Cuba. With this interview we will delve into what the BOE is and what the exchange of experiences and collaboration between both organisations has been like.
First of all, we would like to put all this into context. What is the Spanish BOE and what are its functions?
To understand the current reality of the Official State Gazette (BOE) it is necessary to go back to its origin. The Spanish publication has 360 years of history, and in order to put its essence in context we need to consider that the term “gazette” in English is comparable to the old Spanish expression “gaceta”.
The BOE is made up of a group of people who edit the official journal of Spain. This journal has an effect which is, let’s say, “miraculous”, since everything of a regulatory or dispositional character that is published in the journal has legal force. In other words, laws come into force and administrative acts become mandatory for all citizens.
Therefore, the existence or knowledge of legal standards today is insufficient for legal operators, and also for citizens. From the database of consolidated law, we generate other personalised products, because our citizens are not an abstract concept, our citizens have specific, personal, professional interests etc. And, therefore, we have grouped legal regulations together in both digital and paper formats. Especially in the digital format, which is currently more relevant when grouped by sector of the legal system, thinking about specific groups of citizens, for example, librarians, archivists, prosecutors, coroners, notaries, wine producers, beer producers, cider manufacturers, berry producers etc.
But we can also use other groupings, such as operations, entities or financial markets that are extremely current. It is very important that Spanish legislation is known, for example, by the operator that is based today on British soil.
Thus, the main task of the Official State Gazette State Agency is the miracle of enforcing regulations and the obligation of spreading knowledge of Spanish law.
In recent years, the BOE has promoted approachability and accessibility by citizens, turning the digital version into a glossary that allows citizens to get plenty of mileage out of it. What has this path been like?
The citizen is not an abstract concept. Citizens were born somewhere, they live somewhere, they have certain studies, they want professional advancement and they need to know about scholarships and exams. Information is also published regarding contracts, which is essential for companies that are looking to participate in a public tender or a grant.
Therefore, it is necessary to fully personalise the content of the journal, in such a way that people may be alerted to what is happening in their town or where they live. They may also be alerted to professional interests that may be affected by an administrative decision or by a regulation. Perhaps that is the success of our professional work, having known how to identify that the recipient is not an idealised entity, but a person with specific interests.
Could you tell us how the collaboration between the BOE and the Cuban administration in the European Union-Cuba II Exchange of Experiences Project came about and what its main objectives are?
The BOE is very grateful to FIIAPP because it has made personal and material resources available to the Agency that allow it to establish collaborative ties with countries that are extremely complementary to Spain, and where both Spanish citizens and Spanish companies have many interests.
One of these is the project for collaboration between Cuba and Spain. This project aims, first of all, to facilitate edition of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Cuba in a digital format.
Spain is a particularly advanced country when it comes to regulatory publishing; perhaps it can be said, without excessive exaggeration, that we have one of the most advanced legal information systems in the world. In other countries, even in neighbouring countries, legal information systems are still published on paper and not digitally. Our official publication has the advantage of being free, of having full legal value and also of being usable as a database, which facilitates access to current legal knowledge without much difficulty.
The idea is to make possible a digital edition of the Cuban gazette with full legal validity, with a digital signature and accessible on the internet from all over the world, not only from within the island, but with value towards the international community with full legal effect.
That is one of the objectives we can offer the Republic of Cuba.
This is a foundation upon which to build other elements of interest brick by brick. From the publication of the official journal, we would be able to generate a database in which current Cuban law is also accessible to foreign operators, but especially to Cuban citizens who want to know the legal reality of their country.
From the Spanish experience, what are the main challenges you face in order to digitalise and disseminate this Cuban journal on the internet? What phases do you think you should implement to make it happen?
The Cuban legal information system is a system with its own internal logic. For example, the paper-based publication groups together the subjects by sector at the time of publication. It does not obey a logic that is either inadequate or incorrect. The legal announcement system of the Republic of Cuba is sufficiently coherent from the conceptual point of view.
We can provide technological tools or share experiences to facilitate the online publication of this content that is already correctly ordered.
This exchange of experiences is enriching not only for Cuba, but also for Spain. This quality of the Cuban Official Gazette, of coherent and materially ordered organisation of the subjects at the time of their publication on paper is a vision, that is, it presents an advance that Spain could also take in order to organise, for example, its regulatory action programme.
Therefore, the collaboration programme with the Republic of Cuba is a mutually enriching programme. We cannot think of it as a unilateral relationship, but rather that as a bilateral relationship that enriches both parties.
What has been the contribution of your cooperation, at a technological level, towards the Cuban Administration?
FIIAPP and the Ministry of the Presidency have achieved, through negotiations with the European Union, that several million euros will be contributed to a collaboration project that has as a result, not only the area of regulatory advertising, but other areas such as regulatory quality and the improvement of civil or commercial records. It is within this project in general that the project of digitalisation of the official gazette is framed.
Could you tell us about the importance of the human factor, of the people who collaborate with the administration? Is there any interesting expertise in Spain that can be transferred and leveraged in this programme?
For us, the Cuban project is very easy for several reasons. First of all, for an emotional reason. When we Spaniards go to Cuba, we do not feel like we have left Spain: the reality, buildings, history, everything makes us feel part of the place. Spaniards are treated with great affection and it feels as if we were working in our own administration.
It seems that working for the Official Gazette of Cuba is like working under the same conditions as for the Spanish Official Gazette. On the one hand, there is this advantage of, let’s call it, “mutual affection”, while on the other hand, there is also a high level of expert knowledge on the part of Cuban officials of the reality towards which they want to advance technologically. Therefore, we do not speak a different technological language and we experience similar emotional realities, which makes working for Cuba very similar to working for Spain.
On a personal level, what would you highlight about the experience of having the opportunity to direct this programme?
The collaboration of the BOE with the different gazettes in the Americas is taking place in a space of associative collaboration through the network of Latin American official gazettes. Within this collaborative space, Spain has always had a personal and especially intense relationship with Cuban public managers, in part due to our family origins. My own family origins are Cuban, and there is always a close and affectionate relationship that makes it easier to find technological solutions, because where affection abounds, problems or obstacles are overcome.
After the digitalisation of Cuba’s Gazette, it is planned to proceed to share all this legal information and knowledge with other countries in Latin America and Spain. Could you explain to us what this process will consist of?
The process of integrating the laws of the different countries means leaving behind a scheme that is especially rigid, which is the one we have after 500 years of printing. Text that is written on a page is rigid, in its lines, paragraphs, pages etc.
When that content is produced in a completely digital space it becomes absolutely liquid, therefore, the hierarchies that exist for the analogue world do not exist for the digital world. As a result, we can connect Spanish legislation, with Latin American legislation and with European legislation in a European project called “Unique Identifier Project”.
Technically it has two pillars: identifying regulations the same way and structuring the contents in the same way so that there is a constant dialogue of the machines about these structured products. This structuring of the contents will mean that, shortly, when we search for a concept, we will use a concept that we all sometimes need to understand, such as leasing, renting, or buying and selling, and we will get the results from the Spanish Legal Regime, from the Civil Code and the special legislation that regulates sales, but we can also access the Legal Regime of the countries that have been connected in the unique identity of the name of the regulations and the structuring of those contents.
These somewhat technical and difficult expressions in the end intend to break the hierarchy of territory and link types of regulatory content to each other in a purely conceptual or semantic relationship. In other words, the dictionary itself will refer it to the legal regime of each institution in different countries. So the borders disappear and are simply united by semantics, by words.
Could you give us an example that helps us understand a little better the interest of this shared information, for example, for a Spanish businessman with investment interests in Cuba?
Transparency, which is one of the fundamental values of the democratic system, needs a foundation, which is knowledge. If we do not have knowledge of the legal system as a first support for exercising our rights, it is impossible to participate, influence or access knowledge of administrative activities.
Therefore, we are talking about building basic realities on which second or third generation rights are built. Accessing knowledge of the legal system in a safe way, that is, accessing the law in force today and its temporary versions, is an essential requirement for the correct functioning of the institutions and also for the correct functioning of the economic operators who need to know these legal frameworks to make their operational decisions.
How important is technological safety in this field?
Brands such as the BOE, the Gazette of Cuba or the Parliament of the Republic in Chile, among others, are strengthened by official endorsement and offer security of knowledge. Above all, they guarantee the validity of the regulations that are consulted.
In your opinion, what is the future orientation of Cuba’s Gazette?
I believe that for the Republic of Cuba it is important to have a digital tool that allows accessibility to current regulations from the entire island.
I also think that it’s feasible because Cubans make extensive use of new technologies and it is therefore much easier now to access knowledge in a digital format than on paper.
I think myself that, given the development of new technologies and the intensive use of mobile devices by Cuban citizens, it would be more useful, but this is my personal opinion, to skip paper altogether and take a bet on a digital reality that other countries, for example, could not realize.
Likewise, in Spain in 2009, when it transitioned to a digital platform, first issued simultaneous applications of the Gazette, published both on paper and in a digital format.
At this time, I believe that Cuba could make the move to an exclusive, unique digital edition, with legal validity, saving the operational costs of paper. But it this is my personal opinion. From the point of view of administrative or political opportunity, it may be convenient to keep the paper edition while, at the same time, starting the digital format; but I do not see a technological obstacle, neither for the public, nor in the availability of mobile devices to make that leap towards the digital world in a more intense way.
The BOE, for example, only publishes three copies on paper to guarantee their custody, but only those three copies.
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