08 October 2020
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.
21 May 2020
Posteado en : Opinion
Alma Martín, support technician for the EU-Cuba Experience Exchange project, updates us on how the activities programmed to promote renewable energy sources in the country have been reassessed. She gives us her view on how to transform the limitations caused by COVID into advantages for the project.
Participating in the management of an international cooperation project is a fascinating job, although sometimes the rush and deadlines do not allow us to enjoy the work we do or to measure the great difference that its implementation makes for its beneficiaries. However, a momentous event such as COVID19 making its appearance in our lives upsets any plans and expectations we may all have. There is no SWOT analysis that foresees a context like the current one. And despite the seriousness of the situation and the problems we are facing, it is precisely now that an opportunity is arising that cannot be missed: to carefully address important aspects of the activities we are carrying out, paying more attention to them if possible and dedicating more time to them than ever, to ensure that when we can start them up, they will be as successful as we hope.
One of the most important activities carried out this year in the EU-Cuba Experience Exchange Project for the promotion of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency in Cuba, which we are working on at the FIIAPP, is the “Cuba sustainable energy forum” whose second edition was scheduled for June this year; the current circumstances have made it necessary to change the dates, possibly to September of this year. The Forum, organized by the Cuban Ministry of Energy and Mines, the Delegation of the European Union of Cuba and with the support of Fira Barcelona, will be held at the PABEXPO fairground area (Havana).
In the days before, a series of parallel events will be held in the city of Santa Clara aimed at promoting foreign investment in bioelectric plants (organized by the state group AZCUBA) with the involvement of the Universities of the Caribbean and Cuba (organized by the Central University of Villas) that will include a visit to the Ciego de Ávila bioelectric plant.
Taking advantage of this forced recess, we have been finalizing details to ensure that this forum is a once again a success, and offering Cuban regional institutions and universities a space for encounters and dialogue where more than 150 people will be able to exchange experiences and the latest sector know-how. Through workshops planned around four main topics (solar thermal energy, electric mobility, energy accumulation and energy efficiency), national and international experts of recognized prestige in the field will, together with Cuban institutional personnel and directors of regional and international organizations, address the current situation and development of technologies, as well as international advances and agreements within the sector, which will undoubtedly encourage the implementation of the country’s new energy modernization policy.
The Forum thus adds to the efforts of the country and MINEM to incorporate energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. Among the objectives of the new energy policy, in 2030 it is expected that renewable energy in electricity generation will increase by 24%, produce 7,316 GWh/year, replace 1.75 million tons of fossil fuel and save emitting 6 million tons of CO2/year in the country.
Sometimes taking a step back allows you to take a firmer step forward later and make the leap that ensures you achieve your goals. By overcoming adversity and taking advantage of the opportunity that is presented to us, we will contribute much more to this project and go much further than we had intended.
Alma Martín Pérez, support technician for the EU-Cuba Experience Exchange Project.
07 May 2020
Posteado en : Reportage
To mark Europe Day, celebrated on 9 May, Silvia Prada and Myriam Erquicia from the FIIAPP’s Brussels office explain the keys to understanding the European Union's cooperation policy, the institutions it comprises and its relationship with implementing agencies such as FIIAPP
We still have a lot to learn about this new coronavirus, and the real consequences of the global crisis it is causing. What we do know for sure is that in order to understand it better and overcome it (here and in other latitudes where its ravages may be even greater), without leaving anyone behind, solidarity, concerted action and cooperation are more necessary than ever. Together we are stronger and we achieve greater impact. As this pandemic once again teaches us, the natural place of multilateralism and cooperation is at the centre of the external action of the European Union (EU) and its member states.
Values such as solidarity and cooperation are part of Europe’s DNA. 86% of EU citizens support development aid; and 70% think that the fight against poverty in developing countries should be one of the EU’s priorities.1 Furthermore, the European Union and its member states are the largest donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) with €75.2 billion in 2019, 55.2% of global ODA.2
For some citizens, the EU still seems a complex entity, even though they hear from it almost every day. We’re going to try to clear up some questions, such as what is its cooperation policy, what institutions are in charge of it and what is the link with implementing agencies such as FIIAPP.
What is the European Union’s cooperation policy?
The EU’s cooperation policy is one of the axes of external action, along with trade policy and security policy.
The EU’s powers in the area of cooperation are granted by the Treaties and have to be exercised in coordination with the Member States and other international actors. The main objectives of the EU as established in the Treaties are the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and the promotion of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Therefore, the EU’s activities in cooperation entail financial contribution by the partner countries and collaboration with them to improve governance, in accordance with common values.
The main frame of reference for EU development aid policy is the European key response to the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals: the new 2017 European Consensus on Development .
What institutions are in charge of it?
Several of the institutions that make up the EU are in charge of development cooperation.
The role of the European External Action Service, in particular that of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, currently Josep Borrell, is of particular relevance. As ex officio Vice-President of the European Commission, he ensures the coherence of development aid policy by coordinating the work of all the Commissioners whose portfolios have an external dimension with that of the group of Commissioners whose names correspond to one of the priorities of the new Commission: “A stronger Europe in the world”, and which includes the Commissioner for International Partnerships J. Urpilainen and the Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, O. Várhelyi.
In fact, the community executive plays a central role in development. It negotiates cooperation agreements, draws up and executes development policy, providing aid to partner countries, through financing actions managed directly or by its partners. Two of its General Directorates stand out.
On the one hand, DG NEAR (Directorate General for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations), which implements actions in support of reforms for democratic consolidation in the southern and eastern neighbourhood and to help candidate and pre-candidate EU member countries move towards alignment with the EU body of law (“acquis”); promoting prosperity, stability and security in our immediate neighbourhood. An example of this support is the Twinning programme, recently extended to the other partner countries as well.
On the other hand, the DG for International Cooperation and Development, known as DEVCO, which, under the leadership of the Commissioner for International Partnerships, designs the policy of partnerships for development in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia; ensuring that it is consistent with other community policies, is aligned with the 2030 Agenda and contributes to peace and stability. Its lines of action correspond to the Commission’s current priorities: the Green Deal, digitisation, migration and the EU’s relations with Africa.
The Council of the European Union, meeting in the format of Development Ministers of the Member States, determines, adopts and applies the development cooperation policy. It is assisted in this by the Working Party on Development Cooperation, known as “CODEV”, which also examines and approves the legislative proposals of the European Commission regarding development cooperation policy.
The European Parliament for its part advises and approves the EU budget, including that dedicated to development cooperation. It can also adopt resolutions on development cooperation in its Committee on Development (DEVE) or Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET).
In order to achieve the SDGs as soon as possible, the effectiveness of development cooperation is another fundamental principle for the EU, which is being put into practice through exercises such as joint programming of aid between the EU and its Member states. Furthermore, in the current financial context, in which the Council, the Commission and the Parliament are drawing the new architecture for European development cooperation, in the interests of greater efficiency and flexibility, one of the keys to the negotiation is the proposal that DEVCO made two years ago to merge most of the multiple financing instruments into a single one, known as NDICI (Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument).
What is the link with the implementing agencies such as FIIAPP?
In order to achieve the objectives of its cooperation policy, the European Union needs partners to implement its development actions. These partners may be actors from civil society, international organisations (including international financial institutions and United Nations agencies), the private sector, or the Member States themselves through their cooperation agencies.
FIIAPP is part of the Spanish and European cooperation system. As an implementing agency, following an accreditation process with the EU, the Foundation carries out programmes and projects via delegated cooperation, which is one of our hallmarks with respect to other actors. This makes us, mainly through the European Practitioners’ Network, part of the EU’s external action, and privileged interlocutors of the European Commission, since the EC is an observer member.
Our link with the EU’s development cooperation policy finds expression in dialogue with our natural partners, DG DEVCO and DG NEAR, both with their central services and with the EU delegations on the ground, focusing both on the present and the future. We act as facilitators, accompanying actions financed by the EU to support public policy reform processes in the partner countries where we work.
This link is essential. Now more than ever it is crucial in order to learn more about this coronavirus and its impact on our partner countries. An example of dialogue is the active contribution of FIIAPP as an actor in Spanish cooperation to the implementation of the European Commission’s “Team Europe” initiative to support partner countries in combating COVID-19. Through constant dialogue with Commission teams in Brussels and on the ground, offering our added value: experience, ideas and working methods in mobilising knowledge of the public sector and placing it at the service of external action; and above all, our ability to react and re-adapt quickly, within the framework of, among others, the regional programmes in Latin America and the Twinning programme.
Silvia Prada, head of FIIAPP’s Brussels office
Myriam Erquicia, officer with FIIAPP’s Brussels office
02 April 2020
'This experience is posing a fascinating challenge'
Alberto Herrera, coordinator of the Twinning project ‘Strengthening the Competition Authority of Albania‘, tells us about his experience as an FIIAPP expatriate.
What was your arrival in Albania like? Do you remember anything amusing at that time?
The start of the Twinning project was at the end of last July, specifically on the 23rd, coinciding with the start of the summer holiday period preferred by the Albanians, which, as in Spain, and due to the high temperatures, is the month of August.
As a result, throughout that month, my team (made up of an assistant and an interpreter) and I were working practically alone, which, having recently arrived and working in a foreign institution, made the beginnings a little more complicated.
On one occasion, we even got locked inside the building of the project beneficiary institution, the Competition Authority of Albania. Those in charge of closing the facilities at the end of the day, seeing that the usual Albanian staff had left, proceeded to lock up, forgetting that “the Spanish”, as my collaborators (also Albanian) called us, were still working. We had a hard time finding the person with the keys, but we took it all with great humour.
Apart from that, I would highlight the complicated times as a result of the earthquake suffered in the Tirana-Durrës region, in the early hours of 25-26 November, and the strong aftershocks that occurred for more than a week.
And the adaptation period? What were the most and least difficult things for you?
Tirana is generally a pleasant and peaceful city, full of cafés, restaurants and terraces. Albanians have a warm, Mediterranean character: they like to enjoy public spaces and gather around a good table or chat for hours in cafés. Their cuisine is highly elaborate and the result of an interesting mix between the country’s Balkan heritage and Italian, Turkish and Greek influences. The variety and quality of its fish is particularly striking, which for a person from the coast like me, a native of Cartagena, Spain, is really appreciated.
The main adaptation problems come from the different cultural codes, and from the difficulty communicating. In this regard, the gestural and body language (ways of agreeing, showing disagreement, etc.) is different from that used in Spain or in other countries around us, which can sometimes be puzzling.
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?
Apart from academic stays abroad in countries of the same historical and cultural context, such as Portugal, this is my first long-term work experience in another country.
Given that the project started at the end of July 2019 and is expected to go on for one year, I might be said to be just over halfway.
What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
My daily routine is very similar to the one I had in Spain, given that the Albanian Public Administration hours are very similar to those in our country. You start work very early and finish at a reasonable time, which makes it easier to achieve a balance between work and family.
What does differ a lot is the way of working with respect to my position in the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC), since my functions as Resident Twinning Adviser require constant coordination between multiple players, not only from Albania but also from Spain and, of course, from the European institutions, as it is a project funded by the European Union.
What is the relationship with FIIAPP like?
FIIAPP is in charge of managing the budget and organising the trips of the experts from the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC), and of supervising and advising on the preparation of internal documents and following up on the governing administrative procedures.
There is therefore very close and constant collaboration with FIIAPP staff, without which it would be impossible to achieve the objectives. The functions and support provided by the FIIAPP technician in charge of this project, Ángela García-Monge, are essential.
Likewise, the work carried out by the personnel in charge of organising the trips of the experts participating in the activities of the Twinning project is essential. Finally, I would like to highlight the advice provided by the FIIAPP Communication department as well as the always prompt response and attention provided by Human Resources.
How would you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?
Without a doubt, and after the first semester of the project, my experience is proving very positive. From a professional point of view, this is an opportunity to expand and diversify my CV and my job skills.
From a personal point of view, the experience of living in a country with a different culture and idiosyncrasy, in which people of different religions coexist in harmony, is totally enriching.
But as well as an opportunity, this experience is posing a fascinating challenge: leaving my comfort zone and facing new ways of thinking, working, observing and understanding life.
In short, realising that we are all equal, with or in spite of our differences. Or, in the words of the Brazilian writer, Clarice Lispector:
“Life is the same everywhere and people have to be people.”
13 February 2020
Posteado en : Opinion
Bárbara Gómez, a democratic governance agent of the EUROsociAL+ programme gives us her vision on the border situation at the Uruguay river basin, shared by Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, and EUROsociAL+ efforts to promote good governance at the borders.
We are in the southernmost triple border of America… between Barra de Quaraí (Brazil), Bella Unión (Uruguay) and Monte Caseros (Argentina). This border’s lands share, among many other things, the trinational basin of the Uruguay River, which, throughout its course, involves the territories of Uruguay (mainly coastal departments, but not only these); the coasts of the provinces of Entre Ríos, Corrientes and Misiones of Argentina, and half of the area of the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina of Brazil.
In these moments of migratory upheaval, it is becoming increasingly necessary to encourage dialogue between those communities that share territory and many times the same needs, but are in different countries. To promote spaces of good cross-border governance and, therefore, “Peace Border” spaces.
People who live in the tri-national basin of the Uruguay River have a shared identity that feeds on itself every day, generating a spirit of constant coexistence. The entire area is characterised by a relatively homogeneous population concentrated in a small number of urban centres. Quality of life indicators are relatively high compared to other areas of Latin America. Nevertheless, they also share problems that recur throughout the basin. On numerous occasions, people from the same family live in different municipalities belonging to different countries. Solutions to everyday problems are difficult when these people face bureaucratic hurdles where the laws between the three countries are not homogenised/mutually recognised Or, for example, living on one side of the border and working on another often causes situations of inequality due to incompatibility of the currency and its value, among other things. The same applies to language in the case of Brazil, which, from a positive perspective, also brings cultural enrichment.
All this evolution of circumstances with which the citizens of the border live requires special attention from the governance of public policies charged with meeting the needs of a particularly idiosyncratic population. Helping to strengthen the interrelationship between public authorities at different levels, as well as with external relations between countries, is a major effort, but at the same time a fascinating challenge that brings us back to territorial cohesion framework.
The workshop on Challenges for the sustainable development of the Trinational Basin of the Uruguay River was an opportunity to start a joint reflection on how to generate comprehensive policies for better integration and impact on the processes, generating better opportunities for the development and social cohesion of shared territories. Stakeholders from nations, as well as sub-national and local authorities, civil society representatives and bi-national organisations, all participated in this activity at the end of September 2019, which allowed different representatives from the three countries involved to sit at the table with a multilevel perspective. All of this is based on the logic of establishing a roadmap for improving governance, understood as the effective implementation of social inclusion mechanisms and the improvement of the perception that citizens have of themselves (according to the ECLAC definition). To achieve this, the aim was to establish tasks and responsibilities to develop strategies and policies to build trust and strengthen social cohesion, facing the asymmetries generated by the peripheral and border condition of the territory. In this case, the roadmap opted to establish mechanisms for a more effective linkage of local entities with existing structures and strategies for the basin’s management.
It is important to note that the Uruguay River is not only the territory’s main economic development vector, but also the backbone of the cultural, educational, environmental and social dimension of this stretch of the basin, in which there are prior links and ties that require greater planning and cooperation between stakeholders.
From the + EUROsociAL programme we have been accompanying the Uruguay Mayors Congress, which is leading the initiative, in the development and strengthening of integration strategies in the territories of the cross-border basins of the Uruguay River and Merin Lagoon to channel the development possibilities of the cross-border areas with a watershed approach, strengthening governance and empowering local and subnational governments. Likewise, the Committee for the Development of the Uruguay River Basin (CCRU), has been established as a strategic coordination space for the subnational and local governments of this region shared by Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. This workshop is one of the activities that will contribute to the achievement of improved governance result in these border areas. The European experiences presented will also help to visualise successful processes of equal importance, and inspire dialogue between regions where geography does not distinguish between nationalities. In the words of Trías (1985), “Reality becomes denser in limits.”
Bárbara Gómez Valcárcel. Democratic Governance Technician. EUROsociAL +
 Roadmap prepared by Jose María Cruz, AEBR (Association of European Border Regions) in collaboration with experts: Marcos Pedro Follonier and Hamilton Santos Rodríguez commissioned by the EUROsociAL + Programme
23 January 2020
Manuel Larrotcha, the Spanish ambassador to Romania and Moldova since the end of 2018, receives us at the Spanish embassy in Bucharest
Could you give us a snapshot of Romania in 2020?
Romania is a little known country in Western Europe. Institutionally, its semi-presidential system resembles the French model. Its geographical location, bordering as it does the Black Sea, explains its geostrategic interest and importance. Things happen in this area, such as the Russian occupation of Crimea.
Moreover, Romania constitutes the current eastern frontier of the European Union. And it is important to see matters from the perspective of this end of the European territory.
Talk to us about the social context.
The social situation is stable. Romanian society is a traditional society: more traditional than the Spanish one, without a doubt. Things that we now consider part of our daily lives, such as gay marriage, have yet to be legislated for here. Socially speaking, apart from its traditional character, the welcoming and friendly manner in which Romanians receive foreigners is particularly noteworthy. They are a very hospitable people.
Romania’s Achilles heel is, I believe, its drop in population; five million Romanians have emigrated in the last ten years. Once the exodus began it has not let up. Unfortunately, the youngest and the most educated are the ones who most easily find well-paid jobs in Western Europe. Of those five million, one million settled in Spain. This situation has created a bottleneck, because the Romanian economy needs manpower. This ongoing drop in population is not helping at all.
And its economy?
Income levels still lag behind the European average. Consequently, they are still in the process of catching up with the rest of Europe. Nonetheless, the country scores well in terms of its natural resources; it has both gas and oil, not to mention a very powerful farming sector. And it has industry: Dacia cars, which are sold in Spain and, indeed, throughout Europe, are made here in Romania, along with a thriving auxiliary industry.
A very interesting market, the country offers many possibilities. Opportunities abound in the infrastructure sector: roads, motorways, railways, high-speed lines; practically everything needs doing.
Why do you think there is such a close relationship between Spain and Romania, regardless of the fact that we are EU and NATO partners?
This bond comes from way back: our common belonging to the Roman Empire, our shared Latinity and the linguistic proximity of Spanish and Romanian, etc.
There were no diplomatic relations with Romania when Franco was in power. But when they were eventually reopened in 1975, Spanish companies began to discover some very interesting markets here. Obviously, when Romania entered the European Union, there was a considerable population movement of Romanians to Spain. Accordingly, there are many ties between the countries, ranging from human, economic and social to historical and cultural. All of which serves to strengthen a not only very intense, but also a very complete, relationship.
What is Romania’s role in the European Union?
Romania was one of the last countries to enter the EU, along with Bulgaria. It is particularly concerned with avoiding any widening of the gap that exists between Eastern and Western Europe within the EU. This can be achieved by maintaining or increasing the financial resources allocated to social policies (which include the cohesion policy) and to the Common Agricultural Policy. There is no doubt that Romania needs support. lt needs solidarity and cohesion within the Union and the rest of the member countries are also under an obligation to provide this solidarity. We, the Spanish people, saw how, in the 1980s and 1990s, Spain underwent considerable changes owing to the generosity and solidarity received from our European partners.
What role did cooperation play in Romania’s accession to the EU?
Development cooperation, understood in the classical sense of the term, had nothing to do with it. However, if what we mean by this is cooperation as technical assistance and twinning-like programmes, Romania benefited from these long before 2007. After the dictatorship of Ceaușescu, this country was in an awful state from all points of view, including the administrative one. Its administrative capacity was practically non-existent. This meant that during the entire pre-accession period Brussels had to provide Romania with what is called capacity building. Technical assistance proved to be one of the best tools to achieve this.
Romania gradually created groups of public officials with management skills: first to develop programmes, then to properly manage them and, thirdly, to account for how the financial flows that had been allocated to those programmes had been managed. Accordingly, Brussels made a big effort in Romania with twinning programmes, in which FIIAPP was always very active.
Even so, I think that Romania still has some way to go in this area. There is a lot still to be done, for example, with respect to infrastructure: there are very few motorways in relation to the country’s size and population.
Nonetheless, do you think twinning has been beneficial?
I think it has. You only get out of it what you put in. And I believe that they generate, not only economic, but human and social, wealth as well.
I was very much involved in a twinning programme in Turkey and I can assure you that there are hundreds of gendarmes in Turkey today who are doing their job a lot better than they would have if it had not been for these kinds of EU programmes in which FIIAPP has been, and continues to be, the executive arm.
Moreover, I had worked with FIIAPP before.
I worked with FIIAPP for three years in the Rabat Process; a process in which Spain played a very prominent role. In fact, our country continues to be present in the steering committee for that process. In 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 we managed to get Brussels to allocate funds to this initiative and to involve the European Commission in the north-western Atlantic migratory routes. I found it a very positive experience. We organised loads of meetings, in Brussels, in Ouagadougou and in Madrid. I worked a lot with FIIAPP staff.
During those years, I noted the ease with which FIIAPP engaged with the Administration. And the guidelines to which FIIAPP worked were in keeping with the Spanish authorities’ migration policy at that time, which made engagement between FIIAPP and the Administration relatively easy and always very positive.