• 06 May 2021

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    Prosecutors and FIIAPP: from the public to the public

    Borja Jiménez Muñoz, Prosecutor of the International Cooperation Unit of the State Attorney General’s Office writes this opinion article in which he looks into the work of the Prosecutor’s Office and its participation and involvement in cooperation projects for the improvement of judicial systems worldwide.

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    The FIIAPP slogan “from the public to the public” is reassuring.  It transmits a collective objective of institutional collaboration independent of specific interests, and makes us feel that what we do together is positive and can have an effective impact on the improvement of judicial systems in different parts of the world, because we are doing it in the public sector. I know this from my own experience as a former resident adviser on a twinning project in Serbia, through which I got to know the FIIAPP, make wonderful friends and connect with the view of the Spanish Prosecutor as a specialised professional who can export the best image of Spain.  

    The Office of the Public Prosecutor is well established in such tasks of institutional cooperation and the Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office has been cooperating with the FIIAPP since the latter was created in 1998 and has been growing, managed through the International Cooperation Unit of the State Attorney General’s Office (UCIF). I can affirm that our relationship is permanent, complex and positive and, of course, public. 

    It is permanent because, despite the fact that we have a small staff, made up of only 2,571 prosecutors – not at all comparable with the number of other groups in the field of Justice such as judges, lawyers from the Justice Administration or policemen, among others – and, of them, no more than 30-40 participate in international activities, our presence in Justice and Interior projects is very significant: not only do we currently have four Prosecutors abroad and FIIAPP staff coordinating twinning, delegated cooperation or similar projects, but our participation in short-term missions is also permanent. For example, last year in 2020, despite the pandemic, around 30 Spanish prosecutors participated in as many FIIAPP missions, not forgetting their participation in other institutions, such as AECID, in activities derived from the Ibero-American Association of Public Prosecutors (AIAMP) of which the UCIF is general secretary and EU projects such as EUROMED, among others. This implies commitment. 

    It is complex. Those of us who are involved in the management have different institutional profiles and participate in different corporate cultures. The Prosecutor’s Office does not have the objective of cooperating abroad, our function is to promote the action of Justice and its original vision had nothing to do with the current challenges abroad. Today we have a Prosecutor of the highest professional category (Chief Prosecutor) in charge of international cooperation, who is convinced of the importance of such technical cooperation. And also a Unit of the Attorney General dedicated to this, which includes criminal judicial cooperation and institutional cooperation with third countries, which is an achievement that stems from a personal commitment of a few prosecutors who believed in what today seems to be a obvious. This structure’s dialogue with the FIIAPP generates complexity, in aspects such as the design of activities, human resources issues, institutional relations… Complexity causes difficulties, but the key is understanding, which exists despite the limited human resources that the UCIF has to carry out its work. 

    It is positive. FIIAPP has made the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office grow and given it projection and has enabled it to expand worldwide the knowledge and experienceof an institution that offers specialisation as one of its principal assets, enabling us to create and strengthen sister Prosecutor’s offices and other institutions, through twinning and other projects. Without this list being exhaustive, we have been right at the forefront in Slovakia, Poland, Albania, Croatia, Serbia, Peru and, now again, in Albania, Morocco, Colombia, not forgetting our permanent participation in missions in Latin America, East Africa, Mozambique… In this way, our ideas have borne fruit. I know what I’m saying. We believe that FIIAPP has also benefited from this impact. 

    It is public. The slogan is a permanent reminder of an essential factor: FIIAPP is the vehicle for Spanish cooperation and the Prosecutor’s Office as a public institution carries out its foreign mission under the cover of that umbrella. Spanish Prosecutors do not participate in missions managed by private consultancies, except for justifiable exceptions, on the understanding that public servants cannot compete with public institutions by providing services to companies that compete for the same project. From the public to the public means this and we are proud to defend it.  

    What do we expect for the future? To maintain the intensity of our cooperation and to highlight the Spanish Prosecutor’s Office as an institution capable of demonstrating the best of Spain abroad. To that end, we need FIIAPP. But we also need to become more visible and move towards a deeper relationship. We have shared experiences that tell us that projects are only successful if they are planned well, if their beneficiaries are identified, if the experts are selected and properly looked after, if the FIIAPP team is qualified and flexible and, therefore, it is necessary to establish new relationship formulas. 

    FIIAPP and us, us and FIIAPP. A complex, necessary, useful framework that gives us wings. Long may it last. 

    Borja Jiménez Muñoz. Prosecutor of the International Cooperation Unit of the State Attorney General’s Office 

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