05 September 2019
"The Turks are very welcoming and when they find out I am Spanish even more so."
Araceli Vázquez, Twinning project coordinator ‘on advanced methods in forensic laboratories‘ in Turkey, tells us what her adaptation to this country has been like and what she makes of her personal and professional experiences there.
How long have you been in Turkey? How have you adapted to this country?
I’ve been here for 3 months, I joined right at the beginning of Easter, since, being a Muslim country, for them it was not a holiday. My adaptation to the country has been very good, although the initial stage is always “cumbersome” because we have to deal with a lot of red tape and Turkey has a complex bureaucratic system.
What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?
The first month and a half of being without my children, who we waited for to finish the school year in Spain before joining me on this adventure, was hard The little one is 2 and a half years old and the truth is that it was hard for me to be away from him. Now that we are all here, we’ve passed the test! Likewise, it is not easy to adapt to living with a language barrier, not many people speak English and sometimes it is difficult to make yourself understood, but where there’s a will, and the desire, there’s a way forward.
On the other hand, it has not been difficult getting to grips with the country, the Turks are very welcoming and when they find out I am Spanish even more so. They love football and they know our teams better than me. Also, the group of Spaniards here, the embassy staff and other RTAs make us feel at home right from the start. Turkish food is excellent, which is a bit of a warning for me because on the previous Twinning project the RTA returned to their country 12 kilos the heavier.
Is this your first experience outside of Spain? If not, is this one proving to be very different to your previous missions?
A few years ago, I spent two years living in Los Angeles, as a post-doctoral student at UCLA. It was a wonderful time and for this reason I wanted to return to the life of an expat. They are different experiences because they also represent two very different stages in life. In the United States I was living as a student, however, I now have much more responsibility at work and also two children, which means that I cannot drop my guard at any time.
What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
In Spain, I work as a physician at the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences. My job is to study the samples collected by forensic doctors and police in the laboratory and prepare an expert report with the result. Here, however, above all I have to manage the project, negotiate the curriculum, contact the experts and provide support in the training sessions that are carried out with relocated experts. It is a completely different but equally interesting and enriching routine.
As in all jobs, some days are better than others and sometimes you have to deal with the frustration that things don’t go as you’d like, but this in turn creates new challenges and also makes it motivating.
What is your relationship like with the FIIAPP team in Madrid? And with your colleagues in Turkey?
The FIIAPP team in Madrid is my lifesaver. Having no previous experience in this type of projects, it is essential to have the support of people who have a good knowledge of how the different administrations involved work. I have a pretty much daily relationship with the FIIAPP project technician, we are continually sending each other emails, papers and we talk on the phone. It is teamwork, even from far away.
In Turkey, I have two partners who help me with translations and management. In addition, the RTA counterpart and Project Leader are military officials of the Turkish administration and it is a real pleasure to work with them. They are very disciplined and work hard and want to make the project a success.
How would you assess your experience of working as an FIIAPP expatriate?
It is a great opportunity being able to participate in this project. Both professionally and personally, I am finding it very beneficial. Forensic laboratories have many different branches and the project covers many other fields that complement each other, which makes it very interesting because experts join us from all specialities. From a personal point of view, it is a very enriching experience as a woman who is, in civil and cultural terms, Christian. It was quite a challenge coming to work at a Turkish military base. However, I can only be grateful for this opportunity which is turning out to be very positive.
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in or adaptation to the country?
Very soon after I arrived in Turkey, Ramadan began. In the middle of the night I was woken up by someone who was making an outrageous noise drumming along the street with the obvious intention of waking up the whole neighbourhood. The following night again there was that racket in the middle of the night and I thought about calling the police. In the morning, I mentioned it at work and they explained that it is a tradition typical of Ramadan. A person walks around with a drum, waking up people to warn them to eat and drink before the sun rises, when fasting begins again. Lucky I didn’t call the police and asked beforehand.
14 June 2018
Posteado en : Opinion
The cross-border nature of the crimes faced by customs surveillance requires international cooperation and coordination efforts by the institutions responsible
In Spain, the Customs Surveillance Service is a Sub-Directorate General attached to the Tax Agency’s Customs and Excise Duties Department and belonging to the Ministry of Finance and Public Function. It is made up of officials who are considered law enforcement officers (customs and excise officers and judicial police officers) who work all over Spain and in its airspace and territorial waters. The tasks it undertakes essentially consist of curbing petty and large-scale smuggling and combatting drug trafficking and other similar crimes, money laundering, tax evasion and the informal economy. All of these have an increasingly global dimension.
In regard to international cooperation on customs surveillance, coordination and cooperation between national and European bodies and with third states are of vital importance , both in general for the public and the State and in particular for the organisations involved in this cooperation, such as the Tax Agency’s Sub-Directorate General of Customs Surveillance.
The scale of the illegal activities dealt with by us as an organisation takes various forms: firstly, because these are activities that extend beyond state borders and, secondly, because the perpetrators take advantage of the differences in legislation between the states and look for loopholes so that they can carry on their criminal activities.
In this sense, therefore, the fight against this complex type of crime faces many difficulties, although it tends to end in success. In most cases, the flow of information and the coordination between the operational resources of the different countries are what makes this success possible.
The twinning project named “Improving maritime surveillance in Turkish customs”, which is managed by FIIAPP, is currently taking place between the Spanish and Turkish customs services. The project is intended to improve the knowledge and techniques of both States so as to bring about internal improvement and implement new techniques and new operational tactics in our searches and routine work that will help us to devise and have a new vision of how we can operate against these mafias.
Laura Rebollo Villarino is the head of Air and Sea Operations and CECOP, which report to the Tax Agency’s Sub-Directorate General of Customs Surveillance
About the Project
The aim of the Improving Maritime Surveillance in Turkish Customs project, which is financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP in collaboration with Douanes & Droits Indirects, is to try to improve the surveillance ability of Turkey’s maritime customs service. It also seeks to ensure that the country fulfils the obligations in this area set by the European Union for Member States.
Since last November, experts from Spain’s IEF (Institute of Fiscal Studies) and AEAT (State Tax Administration Agency) have been working with their Turkish counterparts to improve the skills and procedures of the country’s customs surveillance, from illegal trade to forgery and other related offences. Spain and Turkey have similarities in this area as both countries have a long coastline and also have to cope with a strait that forms a bottleneck for shipping. Both countries also form a bridge between two continents, so that the risks and threats they face are very similar.
19 April 2018
“The Turkish people are very hospitable, fun and easy to like”
Carlos Ossorio tells us about his experience as the coordinator of the cooperation project financed by the European Union to strengthen the fisheries management system in Turkey. Until January 2017, Ossorio was the Inspector of marine fisheries for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment. That was when FIIAPP contracted him for this twinning project.
How did you adjust to the country?
It was much simpler than I expected. In Turkey, the Spanish and South American community, and the international community, are very active. They strive to ensure that there are always cultural and social activities planned for each weekend.
Of course, my three daughters and my wife helped a lot, and they made it very easy for me to adjust. I also have the support of the colleagues from Spain and my amazing Turkish colleagues. In fact, I am extremely lucky.
What has been the most difficult thing for you, and the easiest?
There are administrative processes that take their time, and they sometimes drive you mad. The residence permit, the moving house process and getting used to the sound of the call to prayer 5 times a day were perhaps the most difficult things for me.
What bothered me least was adjusting to the gastronomic and cultural habits in Turkey. The Turkish people are very hospitable, fun and easy to like, and we have much in common with them, more than we think.
Is this your first experience outside of Spain?
It’s my first long-term stay abroad, lasting a year and a half, but on a renewable basis. I have to say that the family transfer arrangements (schools, moving house, settling in) are very convenient, although they do take time.
There is an amazing linkup between Turkey and Spain, which has been developed thanks to our “radio” Nilufer, and this makes institutional cooperation very fluid and straightforward. My experience has been unbetterable.
What is your job like, on a day-to-day basis?
The day always begins with saying hello to one’s colleagues and then taking morning tea. I get through up to six cups of tea a day. The day-to-day work is intensive and there is never a break; there is always a mission to plan, a report to review or a budget change to prepare with the Madrid colleagues, or an expert mission to programme…
I usually discuss a lot of things with my Turkish colleagues, both with the Turkish coordinator, Esra, and with the Turkish project leaders, Borja and Erdinç. I also go over future plans with my assistants, and discuss the activities we have to programme.
What kind of relationship do you have with the headquarters in Madrid? And with your colleagues in Turkey?
My relationship with colleagues is very good. I am very lucky with my project colleagues: Pablo, Cristina, Esther and Sonsoles, who back me up and advise me all the time. But there are also people in the Human Resources department, such as Sara and Ana, who are always ready to lend a hand when I need something. These are the sections I have most to do with.
I am also very pleased with the Spanish coordinators of other projects; in Turkey, they are quite amazing, highly competent and knowledgeable. But the key person in Turkey is Vanessa Untiedt, who is always solving problems and knows everybody.
How do you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP country delegate in Turkey?
It’s a very positive and enriching experience in a personal sense, and above all professionally. It’s a change from my previous role, because as a marine fisheries inspector I had to take part in monitoring and inspection in ports, and in checking imported fish products from third countries.
That has enabled me to apply my knowledge in many areas of training, and in the exchange of good practice.
Is there any particular experience or anecdote you would like to mention about coming to the country?
I have had the good luck to have fallen on my feet, and I have a group of colleagues and Turkish friends involved in fishing who have welcomed me into their gastronomic circle, the Çi Köfte Club. Every six weeks we meet at the home of one of the unmarried members of the group.
At these meetings, we eat a dish of “savoury green fishballs” that I have grown to love, consisting of cheese, salad, olives, fish and fruit, and of course we have a drink too. Sometimes it’s the traditional drink Raki, which is similar to Spanish anise. The ones who don’t drink alcohol accompany it with Ayran , a yogurt drink. I feel really at home in this group.
19 January 2017
Vanessa Undiedt tells us about her personal experience in the field as a special envoy in Turkey.
Vanessa Untiedt lives in Ankara, Turkey, since 16th June 2016. She is a lawyer with the Spanish Justice Administration and a FIIAPP special envoy to Turkey. There, she worked on a Twinning project funded by the European Union aimed at strengthening the free legal aid system in the country.
Before Turkey, she had other opportunities to work in the field, in Croatia, Ukraine, Romania and Albania, but this is her first experience of long-duration.
At FIIAPP, we want to hear about her experience in the field.
This is the first in a series of interviews of expatriates working on FIIAPP projects in which they tell us about their field experiences with a personal and more human focus.
How has your adaptation to the country been?
My adaptation has been great. I came with my husband and three small children. They are going to the German school. We have met many people from different countries: Italy, France, United Kingdom, Laos, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Nicaragua… the experience is proving to be very enriching.
What has been the most difficult thing for you? And the least?
The hardest thing for me has been the political situation of the country. The coup occurred when I had been in Ankara for less than a month, and under those circumstances convincing your family in Spain that the situation is safe and you’re not going to abandon the project… is no easy task.
The least difficult thing? The day-to-day routine, the city, its rhythms and its customs. And, Turkey is a marvellous place for travelling, with so many places to discover.
Tell us about your work and your day-to-day experience.
My day-to-day experience at work depends a great deal on whether I’m working on an activity involving experts or not.
When you’re not implementing an activity, you have to be organising upcoming ones, thinking about how best to achieve the project objective, setting new objectives, locating the specialists who will be coming here to work, and explaining to them in detail what their task consists of.
When you’re implementing the activity, the week is full of meetings, seminars, conferences, workshops, and the pace is frenetic.
In what project areas are you most specialised?
The project has to do with free legal aid and, as a Justice Administration lawyer, I’m specialised in the relationship between free legal aid and the court, and between the court and the person who requests free legal aid.
How is your relationship with the main office in Madrid? And with your colleagues in Ankara?
I have a stupendous relationship with the main office in Madrid. I have daily contact with Esther Utrilla, who always answers my questions and is on the other side to listen to me and help me. Carolina Morales, Eva Aranda and, now, María Gutiérrez… The truth is that it’s a fantastic team.
In Ankara, I work in the Ministry of Justice and have two beneficiaries: the ministry itself and the country’s bar association. The relationship with them is not bad, but as there is a need to negotiate a great many things with both institutions, it’s not always easy.
In my office, my team is excellent. The project assistant and the interpreter are very helpful and we get along quite well, which makes our day-to-day work easier. In addition, the beneficiary country also has a resident consultant, a very hard-working judge. Lastly, the bar association also has a contact person with whom I work closely and very fluidly.
How would you rate the experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate in Turkey?
Professionally, it’s the best experience I’ve ever had. Often it’s very stressful, other times it’s extremely frustrating because you ask yourself if the objectives are really going to be achieved. But then you realise that you are making progress, and that makes you feel completely satisfied. Every small achievement is a step forward that brings you closer to the objective.
Personally, my family and I are fully integrated into life in Ankara. We’ve become part of a fairly large group of people and we know people from different countries and cultures, which is enriching.
Is there anything else about your experience in the country that you would like to highlight?
Yes, I would like to say that being in Turkey and seeing the drama of the refugees up close, my husband and a group of volunteers are collaborating with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. They meet at someone’s house and prepare sandwiches for 100 people, 100 bottles of juice and 100 pieces of fruit, and they take all that to one of the Agency’s centres in Ankara, where the refugees have to wait for hours to get the compulsory interview to obtain legal refugee status. There’s a huge waiting room where entire families wait their turn. Seeing that there were so many children, and since the project I’m working involves contact with NGOs, a group of third-graders from the German school of Tenerife bought small toys which we’ve taken over to give to the children with the sandwiches.
It’s marvellous to unite: Spain – Turkey/Solidarity – children – refugees. Always with the project as the nexus, as we’ve gotten in contact through the NGOs we work with to study the possibility of handing out the toys.