09 May 2022
These are turbulent times for Europe and for the world. But if there is one thing we have to celebrate on 9 May, it is the unity of the European Union in the face of adversity that threatens the pillars on which European values are built. A united Europe is a strong and resilient Europe. Silvia Prada, director of the FIIAPP's Brussels office, discusses the EU's new challenges, how it is managing them and what efforts it is making to position itself geopolitically at the global level.
Question: Looking back, with everything that has happened: the COVID crisis, the war in Ukraine… How is the EU handling the current global context?
Answer: The pandemic was one of the crises that pushed European integration forward. The pandemic was the high point because the EU managed to get member states to agree for the first time to borrow together to deal with the consequences of the socio-economic crisis caused by COVID.
In the external action dimension, the birth of “Team Europe” as a joint reaction of European cooperation actors to the needs of partner countries to address the pandemic and the exit from it. In line with the objective of the current Von der Leyen Commission: “A stronger Europe in the world” in the face of such a dramatic situation as the war in Ukraine, Europe, with the sanctions against Russia, has once again shown that unity in adversity, which is what defines and distinguishes it as a project and a space for consultation and regional integration.
Q: You mention that the current Commission has given the EU a more geopolitical focus, how has this affected development cooperation?
A: It has resulted in a paradigm shift from development cooperation to international partnerships, reflecting the change in the name of the Commission service from DG Development Cooperation to DG INTPA. It responds to the need to build international partnerships to leverage resources other than public resources to implement the 2030 Agenda and achieve its development goals. I think it is an opportunity to think about how these partnerships can be more strategic and how it can be an opportunity for the EU to project what distinguishes us, which are our values. This more geopolitical outlook also raises the level of cooperation policy and brings it closer to the EU’s external action priorities. I think this can be positive, as long as we do not lose the ultimate goal for which we work with our partners, which is to improve the lives of people and the planet.
The European Commission in Brussels on Europe Day
Q: It is precisely this holistic approach that is most reflected in the Team Europe logic, how would you define it?
A: As the joining of forces that can achieve more impact than if European actors work individually and in an uncoordinated way. I think it is showing the potential of our diversity as Europeans on the international stage, how we can be stronger if we join forces both in terms of talent from our administrations and from the private sector, the banking sector, civil society.
Q: In addition to this Team Europe strategy in recent months, there have been big projects and framework strategies such as the Global Gateway, but sometimes it feels like these documents don’t reach the people on the ground, what is the real impact of these documents on day-to-day life?
A: It is a framework, like a branding exercise. It is a strategy that we are moving towards together, and the big challenge is how to make it concrete and make it a reality without losing sight of the shared priorities with our partner countries. It is the joint look at how we want to achieve more impact to address challenges that we share with the other partner countries.
Q: What are the EU’s sectoral and geographical priorities for development cooperation?
At the geographical level we see that the region where the focus is clearest is sub-Saharan Africa and the neighbourhood, but Ukraine is also drawing attention to the importance of not losing sight of Latin America, which is our neighbour in every sense except geographically.
At the sectoral level, the two big priorities are the green and digital agenda. What COVID has taught us is that a just transition is needed, that the transition cannot only be green and digital but also has to be social, and although this part is not so marked, I think it is the distinctive feature of Europe, our social model.
Q: In all the work that the FIIAPP does in Brussels, one of the key areas is the Practitioners’ Network, what does this network consist of?
The Practitioners’ Network is an informal European network that brings together most of the European cooperation agencies. It has 15 years of experience, FIIAPP has been a member of the network for 8 years and will take over the co-presidency in May. It is the platform for strategic dialogue with the European Commission. It is a key space because it is where we can share realities that we encounter on a day-to-day basis in programmes and projects, it is the place where we can highlight the most relevant lessons learned when we work together and how we can improve in this regard. It is the platform where we can, from practice, and from our ideas, nourish the agenda of European cooperation, especially at this time of reflection or challenge to achieve coordinated joint work through the spirit of Team Europe and the new European development architecture that is under construction, with the challenge of making it more structured and inclusive.
Q: The FIIAPP will take over the co-presidency in May. What are the priorities you intend to promote?
A: Above all, to promote the potential of the network as a guide for the incipient European development architecture or European cooperation system, coordinated and inclusive. How the network can contribute to the construction of a stronger narrative around Team Europe, as a milestone towards the construction of a European architecture for development, and how it can help us to reflect internally as agencies. Another issue is how it will be done: what are the methodologies and lessons learned from practice that can help us to work together in a more strategic, inclusive and participatory way, with the 2030 Agenda and its 17 SDGs as a frame of reference. In that sense, to continue work that has been of great added value, such as the reflection on the potential of public talent in our Member States, for a distinctive European cooperation around our values and interests.
02 December 2021
We interview Enrique Playán, director of Spain’s State Research Agency, an institution with which FIIAPP works on international cooperation projects. This agency promotes scientific and technical research and funds R+D+i activities.Enrique Playán, director de la Agencia Estatal de Investigación
Why is cooperation in the field of research important?
International cooperation is the basis of scientific development. Sometimes this is because you have to contact people who do not live in the same country, whereas in others, it is necessary to solve problems that go beyond the limits of a given country. Scientific cooperation is also part of international cooperation at a political level. Scientific diplomacy is a fundamental element in relationships between countries. Science is an area in which understanding is the general norm and which therefore has plenty to teach other types of political relations. I am not aware of disputes in international scientific cooperation, for example.
Is the response to the pandemic a clear example of scientific cooperation?
Indeed, in cases where there is a serious humanitarian situation, science still responds more from a perspective of sharing knowledge and cooperation. This has been the case in the case of the pandemic, but it is not an exception, it is the general rule.
Another example of cooperation in this area is the twinning project between Tunisia and Spain in which the State Research Agency participates. Why are such projects important?
Tunisia’s project for capacity-building and institutional reform is not only of importance to Tunisians. These issues, including institutional reform and ensuring the best possible skills, are also very important in Spain. Research groups established through relationship between the two countries have a long history.
What is the relationship like between Tunisia and Spain?
Spain’s relations with Tunisia have been privileged due to numerous historical affinities. It is very important that these relations intensify through this Spanish/Tunisian outreach project and the scientific systems in the future.
The problems of water, agriculture and food in Tunisia and Spain are very similar. The management of brackish water, scarcity, floods, the relationship of water with energy, food etc. are issues that are problems of first magnitude for Spain and in which we find an affinity in the problems we face, in the solutions and varied approaches between countries that is very enriching in terms of research activities.
Is Spain a point of reference in the field of research?
In many ways, yes. Spain has a great capacity to carry out research and to be among the leading countries in general and in some scientific disciplines in particular. The tenacity of researchers here has been key. Although in many aspects and at many times the necessary levels of investment required for research have been lacking, extensive programmes have ensured that Spanish science is among the very best in the world.
Mention the key role of female researchers. At FIIAPP, we believe that it is fundamental to highlight the #PublicTalent of Spain’s national, regional and local administration.
I have complete faith in Spain’s scientific system and the ability of its professionals and the research managers in universities and research centres, as well as in the agency itself and other public funders I believe that we have high-quality human resources at our disposal and that their skills have to be protected to enable them to continue to make Spanish science a leading light in the international environment.
Why is research important for the development of a country?
Because research is the driving force behind well-being. When I say well-being, I include development and economic growth, but I am not limiting myself to that alone. Research is the fuel that powers companies and sets them apart. Ensuring that Spain’s progress is fuelled by a knowledge-based economy is a priority of the first magnitude. It is what will make Spain grow even in times of economic downturn, distinguishing itself from its neighbours and setting it apart from aspects that so characterised the twentieth century, such as the availability of natural resources and other activities that do not have an added value based on knowledge.
Our young people’s job prospects to a large extent rest on us having the capacity to generate employment with high added value and that requires a lot of training. Research is not a policy that can be isolated from the country’s progress, but should rather be linked to other aspects, such as business development and education. All these factors have to be put on the table so that this shift towards a knowledge economy can take place.
17 August 2021
We spoke with Pedro Parra from the State Public Employment Service who has participated in FIIAPP cooperation projects in Honduras and Ecuador aimed at improving their employment policies. This is part of FIIAPP’s #PublicTalent programme, which is active in more than 100 countries.
What has been the greatest achievement of your experience as a expert in cooperation projects?
To be able to take part in information, orientation, analysis, job placement and training programmes. These are processes that complement each other, although it is difficult to integrate them within the same administrative body or programme. Having taken part in projects with such positive results, I feel they have been the greatest achievement in my experience of cooperation between administrative bodies.
What are you most proud of?
Having worked to create teams of public employees that remain in place once the action is completed. Creating working groups from different administrative bodies and countries is a satisfying experience, but seeing that these teams and work dynamics have lasted over time is what makes me feel most proud.
How has your assignment helped to improve the lives of people and the planet?
The Ministries of Work and the Public Employment Services are organisations that develop and implement policies that directly affect people’s quality of life and work conditions. The analysis of employment information, territorial diagnoses and support for the creation of decent jobs all contribute to improving these policies as well as to inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
What is the main value of the public sector for you?
The public sector is a collective effort shared by everyone that represents the services and aspirations of the community, as well as meeting people’s needs and guaranteeing fundamental rights. It means common values, equality, non-discrimination and having a meeting place. The public sector means the public services, in which public employees take part, with values of rigour, professionalism, neutrality, transparency and respect for diversity. I believe that the quality of the public sector in a country is related to its level of development.
What have you learned from this experience?
Through my experience of working with the public administration in other countries, I have learned about the importance of exchanging and sharing work approaches and dynamics. Working in the public sphere is something that brings together the different administrations. Nevertheless, at the same time each has different needs and contexts, different routes and different resources and means. Through this experience I have learned that it is important to value both the shared aspects in the public sphere and, also, the diversity and particularities of each space and group.
10 August 2021
We interviewed Fernando Sánchez-Beato, a sociologist at the National Institute of Public Administration in the Ministry of Territorial Policy and Public Function who has worked on two FIIAPP-managed cooperation projects in Chile and Peru. This is part of FIIAPP’s #PublicTalent programme, which is active in more than 100 countries.
What would you highlight about your contribution to the mission to improve the lives of people and the planet?
What I am most proud of is having taken each mission as a personal challenge, analysing the objectives and conditions of the project in depth and having given my best. Although it is difficult to know to what extent, our mission has contributed to the general aim of improving the lives of people and the planet, beyond having personally contributed with the maximum interest and motivation to achieve the proposed goals.
What is the main value of the public sector for you?
Without a doubt, ethics. Ethics is the foundation on which transparency and democratic quality have to be built.
What have you learned from this experience?
I have learned many valuable things – that it is not based on superiority but on sharing experiences, that one never stops learning, that the search for solutions must begin with history, the actors and the cultural codes of the country to which they are going to be applied.
29 July 2021
We interviewed the Magistrate-Judge, Óscar Rey, of the Civil Registry of Seville who participates in the cooperation project, managed by FIIAPP and AECID, to support the fight against corruption in Mozambique. It is part of the FIIAPP’s #PublicTalent, mobilised in more than 100 countries.
What has been the greatest achievement of your experience as a mobilised expert?
The greatest achievement so far has been to have been able to get Mozambican institutions to trust in the ability of the Support for the Fight Against Corruption in Mozambique project to work with them to effectively fight against corruption and get their full participation.
What are you most proud of?
From the teamwork and effort deployed, up to now, with my colleagues at FIIAPP when it comes to defending public technical assistance as an outstanding value.
How has your mission as an aid worker and at the same time a public official contributed to improving the lives of people and the planet?
As a Magistrate, I view public service to citizens as an absolute priority and as a necessary asset for the well-being of society as a whole. I understand that it is important to export these values and knowledge to other countries through the public technical assistance promoted by FIIAPP.
What is the main value of the public aspect for you?
Technical capacity and experience, merit and capacity in the selection of professionals, and prioritisation in the professional exercise of the principles of impartiality, objectivity and independence.
What learning would you highlight?
That, sometimes, it is not easy to defend what is public against the commercialism of the market, private consultancies and vested interests. But there is no doubt that in the public sphere there are magnificent professionals who are knowledgeable about daily practice, and that this public model must be defended despite the obstacles.
25 February 2021
In this interview, José R. Rojo Rodríguez, General Director of the Institute of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning of Cuba, tells us about the importance of the IRC and the cooperation work which they have been carrying out together with the EU-Cuba Facility for Expertise Exchanges II, funded by the European Union and managed by FIIAPPJosé R. Rojo Rodríguez, General Director of the Cuban Institute of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning
What is the Institute of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning?
The Institute of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (IRC) is a national reference centre for the refrigeration sector in Cuba. Our corporate purpose is to provide scientific-technological services, conducting applied research in matters of refrigeration, air conditioning and ventilation.
We have more than 40 years of experience providing specialised solutions in these areas, with a highly qualified professional staff that carries out projects that range from the project itself to the supplying and provision of specialised technical assistance, called “turnkey projects”.
What are your main areas of work?
Our main activity consists of services for science and technological innovation works, in the national territory and abroad, technical assistance, feasibility studies, surveys, diagnoses, knowledge management and technological management by applying new technologies. We also carry out tests on refrigeration and air conditioning equipment, to certify its quality and verify its energy efficiency, both for national and foreign legal entities, provided that the latter are domiciled, established or authorised to operate in the country.
At IRC we also organise training sessions, technical events, seminars and conferences on refrigeration, air conditioning and ventilation, and we carry out standardisation work, such as: development of quality specification standards, technical requirements and energy consumption rates and technological processes within these specialist areas, as well as marketing raw materials and idle materials.
Which IRC jobs would you highlight due to their relevance to energy efficiency in Cuba?
At IRC, we have experience in developing turnkey projects for refrigeration facilities for different products and in different locations in Cuba, among which are the following: the Frigorífico San Pedrito with three freezing tunnels, the Contramaestre refrigerator for citrus fruits, the refrigerator of the Mariel Special Development Zone and the Camarones de Guajaca processing plant.
We also have laboratories that certify the quality of the refrigeration and air conditioning equipment that Cuba produces or imports and we run several specialised courses in refrigeration and air conditioning that can also be taught online through the GESTA virtual platform, the Centre for Business Management, Technical and Administrative Achievement of the Ministry of Industries of Cuba.
How is the EU-Cuba Facility for Expertise Exchanges II Programme supporting this issue? Could you mention some specific activities?
IRC’s participation in the programme has enabled us to deepen our expertise along the lines of energy efficiency and the use of all residual energy sources. This has already made it possible to work on reducing energy consumption in facilities belonging to several organisations. Likewise, this experience and the knowledge acquired has multiplied and has reached more people through the courses given by our centre to all the personnel interested in these topics.
Support for the programme has been very important for us in facilitating the participation of 3 IRC specialists on a Master’s Degree in Energy Conversion Systems and Technologies, at the Rovira y Virgilio University of Tarragona, Spain, which has allowed us to raise the scientific level of our specialists. They are already preparing their final Master’s theses, which have also been linked to the issues we are working on with the EU-Cuba Facility for Expertise Exchanges II Programme.
Within the framework of the Programme and in relation to this Master’s Degree, what results do you hope to obtain from this training?
The participation of our specialists on the Master’s Degree will allow us to open new lines of work that will influence the use of residual energies to protect the environment and expand the use of renewable energies in refrigeration and air conditioning in our country.