• 09 September 2016

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    Posteado en : Entrevista

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    “Cooperation is such an enormous ocean that an individual contribution can seem insignificant”

    El día 8 de septiembre, se celebra el Día del Cooperante.

    The 8th of September is the International Volunteers Day.

    Thousands of professionals, through their work, are fighting against poverty, for sustainable development and a fairer world. Nearly three thousand of them, according to the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), are Spaniards.

    One of them is Santiago García-Noblejas, Chief Inspector of the National Police. He has worked on international cooperation projects with the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP) since 2002 and, as he himself recognises, has been interested in the international sector for nearly his entire life.

    In this interview, he tells us about his experiences with FIIAPP and his experiences in the world of international cooperation.

    How many countries have you visited whilst working on FIIAPP projects?

    With FIIAPP projects, just three. I have implemented projects as a coordinator. At first, I was called a PAA, which means Pre-Accession Adviser, and later I was called an RTA, Resident Twinning Adviser. The two titles refer to the coordinator of Twinning projects in the field.

     

    In which countries?

    I started in Slovenia, from December 2002 to December 2003, with a very short but very nice project that turned out quite successfully. In fact, the results have lasted over time, as the bilateral relations with the country have continued. We could talk of the sustainability we hear so much about now.

    Later, from June 2004 to June 2005, I was in Lithuania with another short but very nice project.

    And lastly I was in Bulgaria, where the project had a larger scope, with a duration of two years, from June 2006 to June 2008.

    What were the objectives of each of your projects?

    In Slovenia and Lithuania, the projects were focused on the creation of international cooperation structures within the European Union, therefore within these two countries we worked on creating the future SIRENE (Supplementary Information Request and National Entry) office, which is a type of cooperation office that exists in each of the Schengen countries. The office works to streamline urgent police cooperation that is established in the Schengen space. Above all, we worked on the creation of the European Police (EUROPOL) office in Slovenia.

    In addition, the project helped, first, to make sure that the country complied with the European standards required at that time and, second, to provide training to the police officials who were going to be assigned to the EUROPOL national offices cooperating with the rest of the countries.

    In Bulgaria the project was much more technical, because it was really a matter of training the Bulgarian officials on the Schengen border control procedures. At the same time, the project helped with computerisation of the system that had been in use in the country up until then for screening people, the Schengen Information System (SIS).

    How did you get interested in this type of project and in institutional cooperation?

    The truth is that there is no one single motivation. In my particular case, I have had an international inclination since I was very young. I was a bit frustrated because my parents couldn’t afford trips abroad. When I was 15, 16 or 18, there was no Erasmus programme; there weren’t the possibilities that exist today.

    I’ve always had that itch, and I’ve always wanted to get out there, go beyond.

    And I achieved it thanks to my talent for languages and international public relations, and the fact that my family gave me its support and has always been willing to follow me on these adventures. I knew that by leaving my normal professional circle, I was going to enjoy a prestige that, at that time, wasn’t easy to attain…

    Santiago García-Noblejas con su equipo de trabajo en Lituania
    Santiago García-Noblejas with his work team in Lithuania

     

    How did your relationship with FIIAPP projects start?

    It was a bit of a coincidence. They had proposed that I work on another European Union project in a Caribbean country that later didn’t pan out. So, at that moment, the Directorate-General of the Police was starting to work on Twinning projects, and FIIAPP was there managing the budget and providing logistical support to the work of the experts participating in these projects. Since I wasn’t going to the Caribbean project, they offered me the one in Slovenia. I found it very exciting and I don’t think it took me even five seconds to say that my bags were packed and I was on board. Even in the first meeting that we had, FIIAPP was present.

    At that time, I didn’t know about FIIAPP; I knew Eva Suárez, who was the officer managing the project in Slovenia. She helped me tremendously because she was a great organizer and, for me, the face and the soul of the Foundation. Thanks to Eva, I became much closer to FIIAPP, the project with Slovenia turned out very well, I met tons of people at FIIAPP, and since then have had professional and personal relationships with many other workers.

    What would you like to highlight about all these experiences in international cooperation projects?

    I can’t put it into words, believe me. Personally, it has meant becoming a person with abilities, ideas and a level of development that I feel completely satisfied with. I credit a big part of my personality and my current happiness to having worked in the international cooperation.

    Because it’s given me the opportunity to learn about countries, cultures, people—some good, some bad, others fair—to summarise… cooperation has made me grow as a  person.

    What is clear is that I have a different perspective on problems and situations, to a great extent, I think, thanks to having been exposed to the influence of other cultural norms and ways of working. It’s very difficult to explain it. It would take a book to explain all of this.

    What is your assessment of international cooperation?

    The assessment is great; the thing is that it’s like a vast sea, where a small contribution from an individual can seem insignificant or of little value when taken on its own.

    However, these types of international cooperation relationships, what they do is open up many roads and facilitate many tasks that come later.

    And I’m going to give you an example: whilst I was at my last destination as an attaché of the Ministry of the Interior at the Spanish embassy in Romania, the European basketball championship was held in Slovenia; so I proposed to the Slovenian Minister of the Interior the idea of assisting the Spanish citizens, and those of other countries participating in the championship, who were going to come to see the matches. The idea was to establish a cooperation mechanism in which police from Spain and other countries would work with the Slovenian police to provide direct support to the security needs of the citizens arriving as tourists to watch the matches. We implemented it, and it was phenomenal to the point that the idea was used again at the European football finals in Bucharest and at the world basketball championship in France. For me, that’s an example of international cooperation. The citizens got an additional public service, paid for, moreover, by their taxes, outside of their country.

    Now you’re working on getting involved in a new FIIAPP-managed project in Myanmar. Where are you with that?

    Well, we’re working and negotiating. We’re going to have meetings with the beneficiaries, the Myanmar police, and with the European Union delegation to coordinate and clarify some issues that still aren’t nailed down.

    My hope and dream is to be able to start the project there and for people in Myanmar to learn about the Spanish.

    In this case, the project is very broad. Following the philosophy of the new democratic government now in power in the country, we are going to participate and assist in the comprehensive process of reforming the country’s administration.  In our case, we’re going to collaborate in the process of reforming the country’s police, by orienting it towards offering a public service. Because up until now, the police were directly linked to the army; it was a police force very focused on protecting the state but not on protecting citizens. It’s a question of establishing a series of democratic controls over the police and giving them training that is more oriented towards respect for human rights.