14 January 2021
We interview Fernando de la Cruz, democratic governance expert with the EUROsociAL+ programme at FIIAPP. He talks to us about the keys to an inclusive way out of the crisis that leaves no one behind.
Fiscal policy is an invaluable tool for reducing inequalities, so it is vital to a programme like EUROsociAL+, which promotes social cohesion in Latin America. The public finance area of the European Union programme has participated in the Public Finance Laboratory organised by AECID.
What is the Public Finance Laboratory, organised by AECID, that EUROsociAL took part in, and why is it being implemented at this time?
The International Monetary Fund’s chief economist, Gita Gopinath, has pointed out that after the impact of COVID, the world faces a global liquidity trap, which requires a decisive and forceful use of fiscal policy, and public spending in particular, in order to avoid the dangerous effects that this situation could have in the long term.
One of the first to understand this situation was the European Commission, which months ago launched its massive public spending plan called Next Generation EU, designed to reactivate the European economic space.
Faced with this situation, the Spanish Cooperation Training Centre (CFCE) in Montevideo has, through the AECID INTERCOONECTA platform, organised the “Laboratory on Public Expenditure in the Context of COVID-19” with the participation of the European Union’s EUROsociAL+ programme together with other institutions such as the OECD, ECLAC, the IDB and the IEF, a Fiscal Studies Institute dependent on the Spanish Government’s Finance Ministry and an ally of the Programme.
This laboratory is part of Spanish cooperation’s joint response strategy against COVID and seeks, through the exchange of knowledge and experiences, to contribute to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of fiscal policies to achieve the harmonisation of domestic resources and meet the demands of citizens without leaving anyone behind.
What recommendations and lessons learned in the field of public spending has the EUROsociAL programme collected that are of vital importance for Latin America?
First, at a global level, public spending must increase significantly. After a decade of monetary interventionism by the world’s main central banks, the impact of COVID has forced a greater amount of slack and monetary expansion (90% of developed countries have interest rates below 1%, 60% in the case of emerging countries).
This situation has left central banks with little room for manoeuvre and forces the use of fiscal policy to lever the reactivation of the global economy. In this context, the bulk of international financial organisations are recommending a significant increase in public spending financed by cheap debt, increasing public deficits and the application of selective taxes on sectors that have best weathered the crisis. An environment like the current one, with low interest rates and growing fiscal multipliers, favours a sustainable expansion of public spending in order to avoid “secular stagnation”, that is, persistently low economic growth, which could last for decades.
How can public spending be made more efficient? What sectors should it focus on?
The increase in public spending should, in effect, be directed towards those sectors with the greatest impact on economic reactivation and the promotion of social cohesion.
In the first instance, it seems essential that part of this increase in public spending be allocated to the health sector to strengthen the public capacity to face and limit the ravages generated by the coronavirus.
In addition, in this first phase, automatic stabilisers have exercised a countercyclical function, however, this is not proving sufficient. It is therefore necessary to increase public investment in those sectors with the highest fiscal multipliers. There is a certain consensus that these sectors are those related to productive infrastructures, the different spheres of human capital (education, R&D, social protection) and reforms that improve institutional quality.
Finally, this expansion must aim to correct the inequalities, already present in Latin America, that the COVID crisis has further exacerbated. In addition, these redistributive policies will make the increased economic growth more profound.
Why is it important to strengthen public capacities to improve the quality of spending? How is the EUROsociAL programme actually doing this in practice?
Because an increase in public spending cannot be carried out effectively if public capacities are not strengthened. When institutions are not strengthened and must increase their budgetary execution, phenomena such as inefficiency, misallocation and corruption can arise.
To avoid these situations, it is necessary to strengthen public capacities in various fields, such as regulations, human resources, financing, training and incentives, among others. In addition, it is necessary to establish a clear and transparent framework in managing and accounting for the results achieved, so that the trust of citizens is reinforced with regard to institutions and their legitimacy for managing these resources.
In this sense, at EUROsociAL+, particularly from the public finances aspect, we are trying to implement fiscal policies aimed at economic reactivation and the promotion of social cohesion.
To do this, we are supporting the state of Guanajuato in Mexico in designing a new social policy that enables social spending to be increased and levels of poverty and inequality in the region to be reduced.
In the area of spending effectiveness, we are supporting the “evaluation of public spending” and “mainstreaming the gender approach in results-based budgeting programmes” in countries such as Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, and Central America.
Finally, regarding the strengthening of state capacities, the entire EUROsociAL+ governance area is working to strengthen institutional capacities in areas such as justice, territorial development and good governance.
10 December 2020
In this interview, Diego Herrero de Egaña tells how, during his time in Turkey, he has coordinated the twinning project for the training of fish producers financed by the European Union and managed by the FIIAPP.
What has your adaptation to the country been like?
I arrived in Turkey in April 2019 and the adaptation was relatively simple as it is a country with great similarities to Spain, from its climate to the kindness and hospitality of Turkish people. Everything has been very familiar. Turkey is a very easy country to live in and which Spanish people find easy to adapt to.
What have been the easiest and the most difficult things to adapt to?
The most difficult aspect in my case is being away from my family; however, apart from that, I have to say again that Turkey is an easy country for us, it’s not hard to get used to living here.
The easiest part is that it is a wonderful and truly beautiful country, with a rich Graeco-Latin and European culture. Together with the reception we have received throughout the country and the courtesy of its people, this makes visiting Turkey and getting to know the place a joy for anyone.
Is this your first experience of living outside Spain? If not, is this mission proving to be very different to previous times?
This is not my first experience outside of Spain, as more than half of my working life has been abroad, unfortunately. Where you are based plays a major part when making comparisons, as do your personal circumstances.
The main problem that a Spaniard might encounter Turkey could well be the distance from Spain, because in every other aspect you feel completely at home. The truth is that it is very different from my other experiences, but more than anything else, this is due to it being a very easy country to live in. In other places where I have lived, this was not quite as clear.
There is also a factor that has changed everything – SARS COV 2 that has affected all of us everywhere, our way of life, which has had a great influence on work in terms of the progress we have made with the project, as well as on the personnel side, since the fact we do not go to the ministry every day affects the constancy of relationships.
What are your work and your daily routine like? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
With the onset of the virus, everything has changed everywhere. I now see my previous way of life as very removed from the present. It was very simple and straightforward, since it basically consisted of going to the Ministry of Agriculture and organising the project’s scheduled activities and actions in association with the Turkish ministry.
Due to the special circumstances of this project regarding fisheries, I often have to travel along the Turkish coast, something I did not do in Spain. Throughout this project however we have carried out activities along the entire Turkish coast in various stages, holding two meetings a day in different places over the course of a week. It is like a group going on tour, covering thousands of kilometres in a minibus with a very tight schedule.
How is your relationship with the FIIAPP team in Madrid and your colleagues in Turkey?
I am fortunate to be able to say that it is very good. I have worked with very professional technicians all of whom have extensive experience. In such a complicated project, with the added complications of COVID-19, that is something that is very much appreciated. I also believe that I have a good relationship with the other FIIAPP technicians and the rest of the team.
How would you rate your experience of working abroad for FIIAPP?
Very positively. I think that working outside your country with people from a different culture is always a challenge, but it is also highly rewarding.
With experience, you also come to understand that even with all the strengths that such a project has, you will still always be an outsider in another administration. You also have to ask for a lot of things and that obviously, creates tension that you have to learn to deal with.
Do you have any stories that sum up your time in Turkey and how you have adapted?
There are always lots of anecdotes to tell when you come to live in another country because almost everything catches your attention. Generally speaking, something that you do notice in Ankara is the honesty of the people here. It is inconceivable that a taxi driver would try to con you, or if you leave your phone or wallet in a cafeteria they will always keep it and give it back without having touched it, which is incredible.
Regarding the world of work and the administration, the arrangement of the chairs in the offices is curious because first they are distributed to accommodate many people. What’s more, they are not arranged to face a visitor head-on but rather from the side.
12 November 2020
Posteado en : Entrevista
The European Union-Cuba Expertise Exchange II programme, funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, works alongside ONAT, the Cuban National Office of Tax Administration. The Deputy Chief of Office, Reinaldo W. Alemán Mondeja, talks about how he has adapted his work to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What measures has ONAT taken to continue working during the pandemic?
ONAT has not only not halted its work, but has intensified and transformed it during this current pandemic.
The Ministry of Finance and Prices introduced a series of tax and financial measures to tackle the COVID-19 situation which mainly focus on three areas: salary guarantees for workers in the business sector, adjustments to personal income tax payments and tax payments by corporate entities.
To ensure compliance, ONAT has implemented a system that includes the following new features: Video conferences with Office managers, weekly reports that monitor the level and control of suspensions of operations, payment reductions and deferrals and their impact on collection a review of revenue collection and a redesign of fiscal controls.
General measures have also been taken to prevent any spread of the virus in ONAT offices. For example, all workers are monitored on a daily basis to identify possible manifestations of COVID-19, office premises and vehicles are regularly disinfected and adequate air flow and ventilation is guaranteed. Working from remotely and from home has also been promoted, limiting activity to what is strictly necessary and avoiding meetings, face-to-face training and any other procedures that involve people coming into close proximity with each other.
What has been done to prevent and avoid the spread of COVID-19?
In order to protect workers, our priority has been to comply with measures related to prevention and health, with the influx of people into office spaces also avoided. In cases where this is essential, attention to older taxpayers has been prioritised to avoid prolonging the time they spend on our premises.
The use of email and telephone communication has been encouraged when carrying out certain procedures, with a direct line set up to assist taxpayers in all municipal, provincial and central offices. For example, in the case of corporate entities, deferral requests are made by email.
Other measures worthy of mention are those that focus on the public dissemination of all action undertaken. Through the various means of communication available, the telephone numbers and addresses of all the offices in the country have been made public, with the introduction of a computer application that facilitates contact between the user and ONAT. The possibility of requesting payment deferrals has also been publicised through social media and websites, informing people as to what information is required for such procedures.
We have also stepped up communication through social media and on our website, aimed at tackling COVID-19, with messages such as: “Avoid going to ONAT offices, contact us by phone or email. By protecting yourself, we can protect everyone” and “Take care of your health and that of your family – use the bank’s electronic payment gateways”. At the National Tax Administration Office we care about managing payments; however, what matters most to us people’s health.
How have the public responded?
The degree of acceptance that these measures have had from people has been very positive. For example, the firstname.lastname@example.org service has been widely used. We have responded to a large number of questions and concerns regarding developments which have arisen due to the current situation. In Cuba, we used to experience events which affected certain areas of the country, such as those of a meteorological nature, but not in such a generalised way as with this pandemic.
The ONAT Telegram channel has been widely accepted, which today has a large number of subscribers, with news also posted online, as well as on ONAT institutional Facebook, YouTube and Twitter platforms. We are using a wide range of social media, infographics and short videos that explain the processes that have been put in place.
I can honestly say that the work that ONAT has undertaken has been very well received, which I think is due to the quality of the response given to these inquiries and all the efforts that have been made to facilitate these procedures for the public throughout the country.
The expertise exchange programme works alongside ONAT in a number of areas. Do you feel that the programme’s work on digitisation has helped the Office’s adaptation to the pandemic?
Both the work on digitising processes and the acquisition of computer equipment through the programme have been key at this time.
The acquisition of video-conferencing technology has been decisive, as it not only helps us to connect with the provinces and manage a range of procedures with them, but it has also allowed us to connect internationally, for example with CIAT, the Inter-American Center of Tax Administrations.
However, that has not been the most important aspect. The video conferencing system has also served to remotely train our staff throughout Cuba in order to show, exchange, supervise and monitor, given the impossibility of travelling between provinces.
We feel that the diversification of activities developed within the framework of the European Union-Cuba Expertise Exchange II programme to be of great importance – workshops in Cuba and in other countries, internships abroad, participation in national and international events, exchanges in conferences with international organisations and the meetings we have had between the institutions that are part of the programme. All this has helped raise the technical professional level and the innovative capacity of our specialists, managers and civil servants. All of this ties in with some of the measures implemented in this phase of COVID-19. For instance, we are working on improving taxpayer services in relation to online tax payment, introducing a number of computer applications and methods, the knowledge for which has been learnt during the programme’s activities.
We really need to keep looking for solutions to the problems we face. If we can virtually host an administrative session of the CIAT Assembly and train our staff, we are sure that we will be able to continue to provide training within the framework of the Programme.
So far we have not stopped working, ensuring that a great deal has been done for the good of the taxpayer, the nation and our own organisation. We have had very valuable experiences that will stay with us, so we are sure that the programme will continue to contribute in all aspects to keep our organisation and our country moving forward.
I would like to repeat my pleasure at being part of this team and also having FIIAPP‘s support on this journey.
08 October 2020
Posteado en : Entrevista
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.
13 August 2020
El coordinador del proyecto de cooperación europeo de competencia en Albania nos cuenta cómo han sido los últimos meses de trabajo en plena crisis sanitaria
Alberto Herrera, coordinator of the Twinning cooperation project financed by the EU “Strengthening of the competition authority in Albania”, shares his view from this country on the current context caused by COVID19. He tells us how the project has managed to rapidly adapt the training and activities to the new situation, without sacrificing the results. He also talks about the importance of monitoring competition in the midst of a health crisis and cooperation as the cornerstone to promote exchange between specialists.
What is the project about and what difficulties have arisen with the pandemic?
The project that I coordinate is a Twinning project funded by the European Union and carried out by the National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC) and the FIIAPP. The aim of the project is to ensure the protection of free competition in Albania through training activities between Spanish experts and their Albanian counterparts, which until the pandemic began required the presence of Spanish experts in the country.
The COVID19 outbreak and the resulting social distancing and confinement measures imposed both in Spain and Albania caught us totally off guard, I suppose like everyone else. This meant that planned activities had to be cancelled, as the experts were unable to travel from Spain, which plunged us into great initial uncertainty.
However, this did not result in a shutdown of our office in Albania’s activities, from where, from the outset and working from home , we focused our efforts on analysing the most appropriate strategies to ensure the continuity and achievement of project goals, coordination between all parties for an adequate design and re-planning of activities and the reconsideration of the communication strategy.
What security measures were established in Albania? How has the project work been adapted to the situation?
In Albania, measures were taken similar to those in the different neighbouring
countries and in the states of the European Union: confinement of the population, curfews at certain times of the day, closure of land borders, interruption of regular air and sea passenger transport services, suspension of activities for a large part of the public and private sector institutions and the closure of sports, cultural and leisure facilities.
However, once the situation in Albania improved, with the return to office work in mid-April, the project decided on how to resume activities with the aim of achieving the same results as those obtained face-to-face.
Based on this condition, as well as taking into account the preferences and needs of our beneficiary, from the project we suggested the possibility to institutions of going beyond the on-line teaching of master classes and organising e-learning in a form similar to those used by many universities and companies.
Finally, the chosen platform was Moodle, made available by the FIIAPP and which allows the development of interactive training from the didactic materials prepared by the CNMC experts.
Has the pandemic affected the subject on which the project is working?
Since the start of this crisis, the main goal of the European Commission and the Competition Authorities of the Member States, such as the National Commission on Markets and Competition (CNMC) in Spain, has been to ensure that essential products to protect consumer health against the virus, such as masks and gels disinfectants, should continue to be available at competitive prices.
Investigations aimed at discovering and sanctioning anti-competitive agreements between operators or abuses by companies with a dominant position in sectors sensitive to the health crisis have become a priority for the Competition Authorities in our surroundings, and in Albania too.
In line with these objectives, and with the purpose of contributing to the fight against the pandemic in Albania within the scope of our project, we launched an interesting initiative that has allowed us to deepen the collaboration given to our beneficiary.
This consisted of the CNMC making non-confidential information available to the Albanian Competition Authority regarding the actions and investigations carried out by the it with the aim of protecting consumers. One example was the launch of a mailbox to centralise complaints and queries related to the application of competition rules in the context of COVID19 or the initiation of investigations in the markets producing and distributing health care or funeral services.
Why is it important, at a difficult time like this, that cooperation should not stop?
In these difficult times in which the notions or values of transnationality and universal citizenship are being questioned, cooperation between countries becomes even more meaningful – the exchange of experiences, technical and managerial knowledge established within the framework of technical cooperation projects like ours works both ways. Both ways because it not only works in favour of the beneficiary country, but is also enriching for the implementing country. Therefore, in adverse circumstances, international cooperation offers a unique chance to exchange solutions to problems that affect us all.
What is the current situation in Albania? And that of the project?
Although there were infections, the effects of the disease in Albania were less widespread than those of Western Europe. The country has worked to reactivate its activity and economy, and the measures taken have been gradually lifted, but naturally with the adoption of the necessary precautions.
Regarding the project, the parties involved have agreed on a two-month extension, which is approximately the time for which the activities have been suspended, to allow the completion of what had been planned.
How has the relationship with the FIIAPP been at this difficult time?
Since the beginning of this crisis, there has been constant concern and coordination from the FIIAPP, firstly, to guarantee the safety of those of us abroad and secondly to ensure the continuity of the projects, given the importance of cooperation for the parties involved, as I have said before.
Once the parties to the project agreed on the resumption of on-line activities, the support of the FIIAPP, by making the Moodle platform available to the project, was decisive to guarantee optimal results, as well as the technical support and collaboration of the Department of Knowledge Management responsible for it.
The commencement of activities in e-learning format would certainly not have been possible without the support and intervention of Knowledge Management, which loaded the didactic content onto the platform.
Despite everything negative that the pandemic has brought, is there anything positive that you can draw from the situation?
Unfortunately, I feel unable to draw any positive consequences from the whole situation. Perhaps, after a time and with some hindsight, it might be possible to make a constructive reflection on all this, not limited to the repetition of clichés and stock phrases.
I personally believe that this health crisis has placed us in a very complicated situation, with a scope and consequences as yet unseen. Not only has it caused the pain of all those who have lost a loved one, but it has also deprived many people of their livelihood, putting them in a situation of economic and labour uncertainty and precariousness.
For long periods of time, a large part of the population has been subject to great pressure and stress as a consequence of the confinement and social distancing measures taken by different governments, with subsequent harm to physical and mental health.
Neither should we sight of the curtailment suffered by principles, values and rights that we believed unquestionable in democratic societies. For example, the rights of assembly and freedom of movement, among others. I am sorry I cannot offer a more positive view, but as of today, I do not believe that these events will contribute to improving our world or making us better people.
23 July 2020
“Niger, with its diverse culture and ethnicity, is a country of opportunities"Fernando Guerrero in FIIAPP's office
“Niger, with its diverse culture and ethnicity, is a country of opportunities”
Fernando Guerrero, a commissioner with the Spanish Police and head of mission, tells us about his experience as a FIIAPP expatriate with the ECI Niger project. This project is funded by the European Union through the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and managed by FIIAPP. It fights criminal illegal immigration and human trafficking networks in Niger.
What was it like when you arrived in Niger? Do you have any anecdotes about that time?
I arrived at dawn in Niamey in September 2018. It was my first time in the Sahel. We had hardly had any sleep, the next morning, we went to the city centre accompanied with the coordinator. The colours, smells, landscape, the hubbub of the market, the crowds of people, the heat, and the extreme poverty… everything vied for my attention and left me a memory firmly engraved in my memory that I will never forget. As an anecdote, I remember that on the first day I noticed how local food products such as moringa with peanut paste were made and sold in the market. This seemed strange to me to start with but now they are a staple part of my diet.
And the adaptation period? What were the most and least difficult things for you?
In my opinion, if you are aware of the country you are going to and are willing to immerse yourself in the local culture, it’s much easier to adapt. Niger, with its varied culture and ethnicity, is a land of opportunities.
Some customs are strange to me, like polygamy and its rules. Also, the fact that much of the population, due to historical and social circumstances, and beyond the begging you might expect, see white people as the solution to all their problems and do not hesitate to ask for financial help at all times, even when they don’t know you at all.
Treating local people decently makes it easier to integrate. People welcome you into their homes with kindness, so you can get to know how they live.
Is this your first experience of living outside Spain? Is it proving to be very different from your previous ones? How long have you been there and how much time do you have left?
Yes, this is the first time I’ve lived away from Spain on a continuous basis. Most of the time I had spent abroad before this was in Eastern Europe. I arrived in Niger on 21 September 2018 and I’m scheduled to leave in December 2022.
What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
ECI Niger is a unique project, in the sense that it is a mission with an operational police component. We experts are part of the structure of the Nigerian National Police. We participate with them in operations and advise them on everything to do with police operations. We also deal with different local authorities, with the European Union Delegation; with embassies, with other projects and missions to achieve better coordination, and, of course, with FIIAPP, our operator.
The routine is different from the one I had in Spain. One component that is always important, but which is an essential priority here is diplomacy. My experience during my career in the police force is something I share with my teammates and it is essential to the success of the project. Local authorities value that experience and may feel offended if the expert lacks it.
How are relations with the FIIAPP?
We have an outstanding relationship. I have great appreciation for FIIAPP’s efforts to manage a pioneering operational police project. I also value the understanding that our coordination team shows with the daily difficulties that we professionals who are “in the field” have.
How would you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?
My personal and professional experience in Niger is priceless. I am fortunate to have an excellent team of professionals and people. Having worked with the National Police since 1994, working with FIIAPP professionals gives me a new point of view that enables me to grow professionally.