10 January 2024
Posteado en : Interview
Spanish Justice experts explain how EU-funded cooperation projects in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia are helping them join the EU club
2024 marks the 20th anniversary of the largest ever accession of countries to the European Union. On 1 May 2004, ten new countries joined the EU club: the islands of Cyprus and Malta along with eight Central and Eastern European countries, ending the post-World War II division of Europe. Over the years, more countries have joined the EU’s borders, although the integration processes are slow and complex, requiring many structural changes in the countries’ societies in order to meet the strict conditions set by the Union as a prerequisite for membership.
With this enlargement policy, the EU seeks to unify European countries around a common political and economic project, while at the same time strengthening its presence on the international stage. However, both sides stand to gain from this process. For the candidate countries, according to EU sources, “enlargements have proved to be one of the most effective tools in promoting political, economic and social reforms, as well as in consolidating peace, stability and democracy across the continent”.
To speed up this process, the EU funds technical cooperation projects in which European specialists exchange their knowledge and experience with specialists from the candidate countries in areas such as security – to fight organised crime gangs, for example – or justice – to curb corruption, among others. In the following lines, we bring together the testimonies of three specialists from Spanish justice institutions who are participating in cooperation projects in Albania, Bosnia and Serbia. They tell us about the historical and social context of these countries, the benefits of accession and the complex processes that are being supported through European projects.
Why are countries like Bosnia, Albania and Serbia interested in joining the EU?
“In the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is a way to set a path towards stability in the area and to overcome the war of the 1990s and put itself on an equal footing with Croatia, which was also part of the former Yugoslavia and is already integrated into the EU. At the same time, it is a way to neutralise the influence of Islamic countries, at least the most radical ones, with respect to the country”, responds Jorge Obach, magistrate of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) and head of the European project EU4Justice-Bosnia, which supports the fight against organised crime and corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
Álvaro García, provincial prosecutor of Córdoba, and Arturo Valdés, magistrate of the CGPJ, both experts mobilised by the FIIAPP in the framework of the European project EU4Justice-Albania, for the improvement of the capacity of independent judicial institutions in Albania, answer our questions on the case of Albania. “For Albania, joining the EU represents an opportunity to strengthen its institutions and improve the quality of life of its citizens through the implementation of political, economic and social reforms. Firstly, EU membership offers access to structural cohesion funds, which can contribute to the country’s economic development. In addition, membership is accompanied by improvements in political stability, security and defence, as well as an increase in democratic and human rights standards”, say experts.
In the case of Serbia, Judge Marta Pizarro, an expert mobilised in the framework of the project financed by the European Union to support Serbia in terms of justice, freedom and security, replies: “The desire to integrate into the European Union emerged in Serbia after the armed conflicts of the 1990s, as a way to improve the quality of life of its citizens and to increase the standards of security, freedom and democracy in the country. Serbia achieved candidate status in 2012, and since then has undergone far-reaching political, legislative and economic reforms. It is arguably one of the most prepared countries in the region for accession negotiations with the EU at the moment.
However, Pizarro warns of a decline in the mood of the Serbian population: “It cannot be ignored that the initial pro-European enthusiasm has given way in Serbia to a growing scepticism, related to the slowness of the process, and to a series of political factors that hinder the country’s position in the European framework, such as the absence of sanctions against Russia or the situation in Kosovo. Therefore, given Serbia’s relevance as a country at the heart of Europe, the EU must also face the challenge of strengthening the pro-European spirit of Serbian citizens”.
What justice challenges do these countries need to address in order to meet European standards?
In the case of BiH, the challenges are to “ensure the independence of the judiciary by avoiding political interference; guarantee the integrity of its members by complying with conflict of interest and asset declaration regulations; and promote the efficiency of the system, especially in investigating and prosecuting cases of corruption and organised crime,” says Obach.
According to García and Valdés, the challenges facing Albania include “the fight against corruption, the improvement of judicial independence and the efficiency of the judicial system, respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights, as well as the effective implementation of anti-crime measures”.
In the case of Serbia, Pizarro notes that these include “addressing the endemic problems of corruption in the country and strengthening the capacity of Serbian institutions to effectively investigate and prosecute organised crime cases and increasing the capacity to recover the proceeds of criminal activity”.
How are the projects supporting this accession?
In Serbia, says Pizarro, “cooperation is carried out in a cross-cutting manner, involving all actors in the criminal process, from the police to members of the judiciary and prosecutors”. Among other actions, support is being given to Serbian institutions “in the design of legislative modifications to increase the efficiency of the legal and juridical framework, and to promote tools that improve coordination between the police, the prosecution and the judiciary”.
“The EU4Justice-Bosnia project is based on four pillars: ensuring the efficiency of the system, through activities carried out by Spanish specialists in which comparative analyses between EU and neighbouring countries have been provided; guaranteeing integrity, with actions aimed at ensuring the declaration of assets; promoting compliance with the regulation of conflicts of interest, with the participation of Spanish specialists in judicial ethics; and strengthening the quality and efficiency in the way of investigating and judging, especially in corruption cases, by providing specialised training”, says the magistrate posted to BiH.
In the case of Albania, Valdés and García explain that this is being done “through the training of civil servants, the exchange of best practices, the development of institutional capacities and economic support to implement reforms”.
What successful experiences of Spain’s EU accession process could be relevant for these countries?
“The process of Spain’s accession to the EU accelerated the democratisation of the country, brought great social welfare, and strengthened the rule of law,” says Pizarro. “Already then, the foundations were laid for the creation of solid structures, which made it possible to progressively tackle the fight against corruption and organised crime in an efficient manner. In fact, the strength of the rule of law in Spain is highly valued by Serbian institutions as a relevant learning model”.
“It is very difficult to translate Spain’s pre-1985 status quo to present-day BiH. Spain’s success probably lay in the strength of its public administration being able (and willing) to absorb European regulation, with a quick adaptation of both internal regulations and procedures, as well as a good public awareness campaign on the advantages of EU membership. And probably because there was no other alternative,” says Justice Obach.
According to García and Valdés, some important lessons are “the importance of addressing structural reforms at the institutional and legal level, the need to promote political and social stability, as well as the commitment to the implementation of EU policies and regulations. The Spanish experience could inspire Albania to work on consolidating democracy, improving the rule of law and modernising its institutions”.
Why is international cooperation between public institutions relevant in this area?
In Obach’s view, “this is the only way to carry out any project, whatever the subject matter, effectively in any country. Only by sharing knowledge between the different public institutions and collaborating in accordance with the competences of each of them can an optimal result be achieved.
According to Valdés, “the EU seeks to ensure that candidate countries have transparent, independent and efficient judicial systems. Co-operation with public institutions in other countries facilitates the exchange of knowledge, best practices and experiences. Moreover, this collaboration, especially in areas such as justice, contributes to strengthening institutional capacity and ensuring the consistent application of European standards in the judicial and legal field”.
Judge Pizarro adds that “it cannot be overlooked that international cooperation between public institutions is fundamental to address critical issues such as the effectiveness of the fight against organised crime, given its cross-border and global nature“.
29 July 2021
Posteado en : Interview
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.
06 May 2021
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.
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
21 July 2020
In this post, Chilean National Defender, Andrés Mahnke, talks about the progress made in Chile's criminal defence with the EUROsociAL+ project
The so-called “social outcry” started in Chile on 18 October 2019 and transformed the country’s agenda, not only because its citizens demanded it, and because it exposed the activities of public institutions which now, more than ever, were struggling to cope with hitherto unseen scenarios stemming from the demonstrations.
The Chilean social outcry attracted international interest, since it included loss of life and hundreds of people with ocular mutilation, numerous complaints of serious human rights violations, and destruction of public and private infrastructures, among other consequences. As a result, the country received visits from representatives of several international human rights organisations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
In all these areas, Chilean justice and its actors had to take action, monitored by the justice system and the close scrutiny of an empowered citizenry and the international community. In this context, a series of adjustments and learnings took place, which started to become visible during the first quarter of 2020, and which had their acid test during March of this year.
However, this story had an unexpected twist, which dominated all scenarios and modified all agendas: the SARS-CoV2 Coronavirus, which causes the disease known as Covid19 . A few weeks after the disease reared its head in Chile, it forced a change to the electoral calendar for the beginning of the constitutional process and caused something which was unthinkable just weeks earlier: the end of mass social protest in public spaces. People went home and the streets were empty, in the same way as happened almost all over the world.
But reflection on the changes to the justice system and the lessons learned from the ‘outbreak’ must not stop. In fact, they have become even more essential to resume the fluidity of public activity when the health emergency ends. Nor does the outcry seem to have disappeared, rather it has been put on hold with a few resurgences due to the lack of food during the quarantine. Everything suggests the social and economic impact of the pandemic will exacerbate existing inequalities. Therefore, this period has been an opportunity to integrate our learning and anticipate future scenarios.
In the social protest scenario, one indirect effect was connected to the work of the different actors in the criminal system facing an unprecedented challenge in terms of coverage and operational capacity, because of the notable increase in the number of people detained and processed.
Between 18 October and 13 November 2019, the Chilean Public Criminal Defender’s Office – a public institution that guarantees the right to defence and which is made up of 722 officials and 524 external providers – attended to 20,645 people under arrest, an increase of 25.4% compared to the same period of the previous year.
These increases, however, were even greater during the initial days of the crisis. Between 20 and 28 October, a period during which much of Chile was under a “state of constitutional exception”, the institution registered 10,712 defendants undergoing detention reviews, representing an increase of 70% compared to the same period in 2018. Furthermore, whereas on average there are between 600 and 650 daily detention reviews in the country, at that time they increased to 1,100 daily hearings, reaching a peak of 2,508 detention reviews on 21 October.
Beyond this work, an initial conclusion showed that an indeterminate number of detainees were not assisted by public defenders, either because the Public Ministry had decided not to transfer them to detention review, or because the police did not report that they had been arrested. This meant that there was no jurisdictional control of these activities and there were no records.
This triggered a contingency plan in Public Defence to attend to people detained in the police units, because by institutional design, defenders are in contact with the detainee just before the detention review hearing before the supervisory judge. Although public defenders set up informal service centres in police stations and other police detention facilities, this gave direct coverage to only 105 of the 900 police stations in the country.
This gap need to be filled urgently, since numerous people’s rights have been violated, as described in reports from the human rights organisations who visited the country.
Institutionally, the Chilean Public Criminal Defender’s Office activated different measures, such as strengthening the dissemination of rights , coordinating with the rest of the actors in the system, and opening channels for collaboration with the police, among others.
However, the main initiative that followed the period of social crisis in Chile stemmed from the support lent by EUROsociAL+, European Union programme managed by the FIIAPP, whose specialists are currently collaborating with Public Defenders to prepare a ‘Criminal defence protocol for the initial hours following arrest‘.
Its main objective is to find a means to provide coverage that guarantees the right of detained persons to a defence lawyer in the shortest possible time, thus protecting their right to technical defence. Furthermore, as international organisations that promote and protect human rights have revealed, the presence of a defence lawyer is a safeguard to protect the detained person’s other rights, particularly to prevent torture.
These actions enable comprehensive, effective achievement of the institutional mission to guarantee the right to defence of any accused person at all stages of the criminal process, preventing violation of rights and strengthening judicial detention review, providing public defenders with more tools to appeal against the punitive power of the State on an equal footing before the courts of justice.
The objective is always the same: to reinforce institutional commitment to the rule of law, a peaceful society and democracy in Chile, a task for which we are grateful to have the steadfast, permanent support of European cooperation.
By Andrés Mahnke M., National Defender (Chilean Public Criminal Defender)
In relation to the work done together with the Chilean Public Criminal Defender’s Office, the EUROsociAL+ programme has just published a diagnosis of the criminal defence of people in the first few hours of detention in the Latin American country.
04 July 2019
The Open Justice Strategy of the State Council of Colombia, supported by the ACTUE Colombia project, has received a stellar reform award.
Early last month, I was fortunate enough to attend the 6th Global Summit of the Open Government Partnership in Canada , a gathering that brought together two thousand people from 79 countries and 20 local governments who, along with civil society organizations, academics and other stakeholders, make up the Open Government Partnership (OGP). This year, the Summit revolved around three strategic priorities: participation, inclusion and impact.
During the inauguration, and to my surprise, the initiative that we supported in the ACTUE project – a project managed by FIIAPP with EU funding between 2014 and 2018 – was displayed on giant screens: the Open Justice Strategy in the State Council of Colombia as one of the “ Stellar Reforms” selected in the last OGP cycle. It was very exciting to be able to experience that tangible impact of one of our projects, something that we rarely get to experience. I was even more thrilled than when I saw the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau live, which is really saying something. And for good reason, too. These 12 commitments have been selected by the Independent Review Mechanism from among hundreds of others for showing evidence of preliminary results that mean significant advances in relevant and transformative political areas .
The Open Justice Strategy in the Council of State of Colombia has, for the first time, allowed the Court to begin publishing its previous agendas and decisions, as well as information on possible conflicts of interest of judges and administrative staff; essential aspects of public accountability, as well as enabling citizens and civil society to do their work of social control. In the long term, these changes can reduce corruption in justice institutions and allow them to regain the trust of citizens . Justicia Abierta is one of the political tendencies in open government that is gaining greater traction, given the major impact that its actions can have on citizens; In particular, access to justice makes it possible to exercise other rights. In addition, this sectoral action contributes directly to the advancement of the 2030 Agenda through goal 16, Peace, Security and Solid Institutions.
The ACTUE Colombia project was supporting the Transparency Secretariat of Colombia in the preparation of its OGP action plans, as well as civil society organizations, by using specialized technical assistance to promote the creation of a space for dialogue between administrations and civil society to define their own priorities in open government .
This is a good example of the positive impact that delegated cooperation can have, thanks to the flexibility and innovation they bring to our partners and the technical assistance on demand that we carry out.
About the ACTUE-Colombia project
The Anti corruption and Transparency Project of the European Union for Colombia (ACTUE-Colombia) has supported Colombian institutions in the implementation of key measures for a Open Territorial Government with the aim of making progress in the prevention of and fight against corruption both at the national and territorial levels. To this end, the project supported the creation of conditions for the fulfilment of international commitments, the strengthening of social control, the promotion of the co- responsibility of the private sector, and the generation of cultural and institutional changes .
The project is financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP in coordination with the Secretary for Transparency (ST) and Public Function (FP). It has assisted three regional governments, six city councils and two hospitals in areas such as applying the Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information, drafting Anti-Corruption and Citizen Information Plans (PAAC), fostering accountability and promoting public participation. It has thus helped officials to understand that the right to transparency and access to information is an essential right on which other rights depend. It has increased their awareness by institutionalizing advances in active transparency and their knowledge of how to identify and manage the risks of corruption.
Carolina Díaz, legal technician in the area of Justice and Security at FIIAPP and, between 2014 and 2018, member of the ACTUE Colombia team
29 November 2018
Antonio Roma, coordinator of cooperation between justice systems at EL PAcCTO, reflects on the role and value of international judicial cooperation within the framework of the project
Today, international judicial cooperation is a necessity for all countries. In particular, if we talk about the European system, we have gone from cooperation between states to cooperation between judges of states, without the need to go through a centralised control system of administrative authorities. In that regard, in Europe, we therefore have extensive experience based on a principle of integration.
With the objective of developing this integration, at EL PAcCTO—a project financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP, and in collaboration with the Italo-Latin American Institute and the Camões Institute of Portugal—we work to strengthen effective judicial cooperation with Latin America. The region is full of professionals—true professionals, for that matter—who work in their respective countries and who are highly competent. However, the structures they have for working in international judicial cooperation remain very dependent on cooperation between states. At EL PAcCTO, we can go as far as the will of the states determines, since it is an on-demand project.
In any case, we are making a very strong commitment to facilitating cooperation systems, by increasing the acts of cooperation available to them. It is not about allowing them to help foreign judges or foreign prosecutors, but about giving them the best conditions to request help abroad: to open their borders to the world in order to receive information and investigate the crimes they are dealing with.
We are working through several lines: for example, we are facilitating an update of international cooperation laws to give them access to the new techniques that inevitably arrive. The truth is that crime advances so fast, money moves so fast, and the perpetrators of crimes cross borders so quickly, that any attempt to continue with a scheme based on cooperation between states typical of the mid-twentieth century leads to few results.
Organised crime requires being very up-to-date, and to achieve this, picking up the pace is very important. For this reason, we are working on the creation of joint investigation teams and other innovative cooperation techniques between states, and also in relation to cybercrime, because the existing forms of cooperation in this area, such as instant contacts between the state police and fiscal authorities, are in need of an update.
We are also establishing a line of work that is being used by different nations to facilitate computer technical systems. In this way, the system users, i.e. the prosecutor or the policeman who is on the last corner of the state border, will have the mechanisms to not only get the information, but also the facility to prepare cooperation events with other states. All of this will be made simple, facilitating the work of all parties and ultimately promoting greater international cooperation between them.
In short, EL PAcCTO is not based on training courses or on knowledge updates; instead we seek to have an effect which is as direct and practical as possible and, therefore, to learn by doing but also and, above all, by improving structures, systems and techniques.