09 July 2020
Javier Ocón has been a FIIAPP expert on several wine projects in Romania. Today he tells us about his relationship with his Romanian counterparts and his last trip to the country to which he has given so much and from which he has received so much.
The FIIAPP Communication Department has asked me to write a few lines about my impressions of my last trip to Romania to see the colleagues I worked with on the twinning projects we ran with the La Rioja regional government between 2002 and 2007. The truth is, it has always been easy for me to talk about things and difficult to write about them; but this time it will be especially difficult because I don’t have to talk about things, I have to put my feelings into words.
Even now, 13 years after finishing the projects, I am still in contact with all of them, and I am not an exception in this, as this happens to all of us who participate in twinning projects. The projects have ended, but we are left with friends, memories and above all the feeling that we are still there and that the work is continuing.
If you had asked me before what a friend is, I would have said a friend is someone who, if you haven’t spoken to them or seen them for a while, when you meet them again, you pick up your conversation as if you had seen each other the day before. This idea, which I had many years ago, has changed as a result of my experience in Romania and now I express it in the words of another friend, colleague and at one point my “BOSS” who led the first project we carried out in 2002, Enrique García-Escudero. With the friends/colleagues on the project in Romania we have been saying fond farewells for 13 years because we were no longer going to meet and 6 months later we had found a reason (or it was an excuse, I’m not sure) to get back together and carry out another activity together.
In short, the human relationships that were created on these projects have been one of the pleasures that have motivated us to work, and I have to say, to work hard, very hard, but nothing is difficult or hard if you enjoy doing it: as we say in Spanish “sarna con gusto no pica”, which roughly translates as “if you enjoy having scabies it doesn’t itch”.
But I must stress that also in these projects, specifically in the Romanian wine sector, we have had the joy of seeing how a sector was modernising, adapting to the European Union’s rules and with total success. How they have used their entry into the common market to adapt their production structures and modernise their sector to levels that are truly incredible, taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them when they entered the European Union to improve their production structure and see how the benefits of this were transferred to the employees and the population in the rural areas where the wine was produced. Vines are one of the crops that, due to the need for a permanent workforce, brings more population to rural areas, and this is a joy and a source of pride because, as good humans, we jump to the conclusion that we have done some of this (or at least we have helped), us and our Romanian colleagues.
And when I speak or write, as is the case now, about my Romanian colleagues, I must stress that they are only part of the whole, because this piece would not be complete without mentioning the relationships that have developed between the Spanish team that travelled to Romania. If you think it was normal that as partners and friends we would strengthen our personal relationships, you cannot imagine to what extent we have developed them and how the work often put our friendships to the test, because not everybody had the same interests. We all wanted the resources to go to our part of the project, we all considered that our part was the most important and that we had to be given priority until… the time came to take a break, so we all got together to tell each other how the day had gone, what our problems had been and above all enjoy each other’s company.
All this would have been enough to make the projects good, but there has been yet another even more important factor, although one not so evident. The amount that those of us who considered ourselves experts learned. When we faced a new challenge, we had to review one by one all the principles that governed our work and looking at this from the outside was the ideal opportunity to see how we could improve our work.
To sum up: 5 years of projects, 13 years interacting without any projects, many calls, many emails, many trips and 700 words in this essay. I would do it all again tomorrow.
José Javier Ocón Berango
Expert in Vineyard Registration with the La Rioja Ministry of Agriculture in twinning projects in Romania.
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.
16 January 2020
Although before leaving for Turkey, they gave us many instructions when you arrive in Turkey, it is like discovering it for the first time
Ángel Vicente López Muriel, coordinator of the Twinning project ‘Better Management of Terrorists and Dangerous Criminals in Prisons and Prevention of Radicalisation‘, which is being carried out in Turkey, tells us about his experience as a FIIAPP expatriate, his adaptation to Turkey and his daily routine in the country.
What has been the most difficult aspect to adapt to, and the easiest?
The hardest thing I have had to do has been to get my residence card. First they needed one document, then another, first I had to go to this office, then another. And finally you realise that this is a country where who you know is very important.
The easiest, walking the streets of Ankara. You have a true sense of security. You can leave your wallet or mobile on the table without worrying because when you return they will still be there and this is not possible in many Spanish cities.
Is this your first experience of living outside Spain? Is it proving to be very different from your previous ones?
I lived in France for many years. Turkey is more similar to Spain in the character of its people than France. However, Spanish cities are more like French cities. I think that Turkey is still a little behind the level of Europe, of course as far as the big cities are concerned.
What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
Office work is similar in terms of administrative work with the difference being that everything here focuses on the project and we always have time limits hanging over us. And another important difference is that we have to manage relations with the beneficiaries (with regard to customs and language) and also the relationships between the beneficiaries and the experts and the participants in the project.
How is your relationship with your colleagues and with FIIAPP?
Well, although before leaving for Turkey, they gave us many instructions and recommendations, when you arrive in Turkey and live there, it is like discovering it for the first time. Almost everything is different from what I was told, there is always a last minute change in a process that disrupts it, for example, with the phones, we have to pay fees, there were issues with the residence permit, etc.
Regarding project management, there are some issues that should be managed by FIIAPP directly with Brussels, as the CFCU responsible for the project’s administrative management puts many obstacles in our way and applies the twinning manual at its own discretion.
The relationship with the other RTAs is superb, we share problems and we all try to manage and solve them.
How would you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?
As I said before, FIIAPP provides us with very important logistical support so the project is able to progress. However, the problem we have raised, which could be solved by a call to EU officials, has not been managed.
Any experience or anecdote worth highlighting from your arrival/adaptation to the country?
One anecdote is when I went to get my hair cut for the first time. If you are very demanding about your haircut you will have to be very patient and choose your hairdresser carefully. The first time I got my hair cut, when I left I had no choice but to put my hood up and cover my head.
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.
07 March 2019
Project coordinator Francisca Guzmán reflects on the importance of legislative adaptation to the country in this matter
Morocco has a long history in the regulation of the carriage of dangerous goods by road. The country has been a signatory of the European Agreement concerning the international carriage of dangerous goods by road (ADR) since 2001 and ten years later, in 2011, Law 30/05 was published that regulates the carriage of dangerous goods in the country. This establishes the framework for this mode of transport but refers local transport to the effective application of the international agreement.. Going a step further on this path, the FIIAPP now manages, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Works, a twinning project in Morocco that, funded by the European Union, is committed to safety in the carriage of dangerous goods by road based on the ADR.
This project aims to improve safety and strengthen the structure and activities related to the carriage of dangerous goods by road, and its main objective is the preparation of the regulatory texts mentioned in Law 30/05.
The necessary regulations for the application of ADR in domestic transport, adapted to the intrinsic characteristics of the country, have already been developed by the Spanish specialists participating in this project. The Moroccan Administration, after the legal wording of these texts has been adapted to the Moroccan legislative technique, will begin the administrative procedure for the approval and publication of the set of laws that will regulate not only the carriage of dangerous goods, but also all fields which concern and are affected by this carriage.
The carriage of dangerous goods is multifaceted, meaning that many ministries, professional sectors and organisations are involved, hence the complexity of this twinning which, although it actually belongs to the Moroccan Ministry of Transport, affects and requires collaboration and cooperation by other ministries and agencies of the Moroccan administration. Hence the complexity, the difficulty and the captivating nature of the project, which concerns a large part of the administration of a country, numerous professional and economic sectors and, best of all, affects all citizens. We must not forget that the ultimate objective is to make the carriage of dangerous goods safer, since these goods are transported at all hours, every day. Suffice to mention the carriage of gas bottles, which is very common in this country.
Therefore, taking into account the progress made with the project and aware of the difficulties entailed by legislative publications in all countries, we can confirm, without fear of error, that Morocco is at the starting point of the application of ADR in its territory, which will mean a very important added value for this country, and it will be the first country in this area to fully apply this agreement. This will help Morocco to become the first country in North Africa and the Atlantic façade to apply ADR to its internal transport, always adapted to the intrinsic characteristics of this territory.
The international scope of the project has facilitated the introduction of the Moroccan administration into the international groups of the United Nations where the details of the ADR rules are discussed, approved and debated. This will give Morocco the opportunity to discuss, propose, and understand the situation of this mode of transport in the rest of the countries that have signed the ADR agreement. In addition, it will enable Morocco to achieve an important, prominent status in its regional area, in particular, with regard to North African countries and the Mediterranean basin.
Thus, after effective application of the texts in Morocco, the country will be the leader of this type of transport in its region. All this will assist economic consolidation, consolidation of the road transport sector and, most of all, it will help to make transport safer, which will directly affect the citizens of this country, its infrastructures and the environment. Once again, cooperation will have provided a country with the necessary tools to drive economic and social development and good governance .
02 August 2018
Gerard Muñoz reflects on the parallels between twinning projects and his experience in coordinating the project to fight against organised crime in Peru
Are we carrying out twinning between public administrations in Latin America, as the practice is known in the European Commission?
Formally no, but we have a series of very similar projects which could be considered as a pilot. Of course, these are an opportunity for the European Union to transmit their values and influence, especially in these times of turbulence and disagreement between the big blocks.
The negotiation of the new EU multi-annual financial framework 2021-2027 may be the time to introduce this topic into the cooperation agenda, with FIIAPP as a major player due to its extensive experience in this area.
Its technical characteristics make it a very useful development mechanism for middle-income countries in Latin America. Of course, it needs to be adapted to a very diverse reality at a sub-regional level, finding positive conditionalities regarding participation. We shall see.
What is twinning?
According to the European Commission, twinning is an EU mechanism for institutional cooperation between Public Administrations of EU Member States and beneficiary or partner countries, with the aim of achieving concrete mandatory operational results through peer to peer activities.
In countries in the process of joining the EU, such as Serbia or Macedonia, twinning between administrations focuses on providing support for the transposition, implementation and application of EU legislation, the famous acquis communautaire. This is to ensure that that when they become full members of the EU, they can operate normally following the European legal standards in sectors such as the administration of justice, security, transport, consumption, public health and intellectual property.
Since 2004, twinnings have also been implemented with some of the EU’s strategic partners such as the Ukraine and Turkey. Within this framework, the mechanism aims to improve the capacities of the public administrations in these countries by training their staff and supporting the reorganisation of their structure. It also supports the approximation of national laws, regulations and quality standards to those of the European Member States, within the framework of cooperation or partnership agreements signed with the EU.
A similar experience in Peru
In Peru over the last four years, FIIAPP has carried out activities similar to twinning through a project to fight organised crime, with similar aims. The project focused on components that correspond to the expected results. A series of activities were carried out that include workshops, training sessions, expert missions, study visits, internships and specialist technical advice.
Over this time, more than 2,600 Peruvian civil servants have been trained, 109 courses run in 64 different subjects, 34 technical assistances provided, and 13 internships organised in Europe. This has involved the mobilisation of more than 200 officials and employees in the public administrations of the Member States and an on-site team was responsible for the project.
The twinning is based on executive learning and sharing best practices, as has been the case in Peru in terms of intelligence, investigation and judicial processes. All this in order to improve the Peruvian State’s capacities in fighting drug trafficking and organised crime.
To give an example, after 4 years of work, the Peruvian authorities are obtaining record figures regarding interventions and the dismantling of organised gangs dedicated to drug trafficking and international organised crime. To cooperate on this achievement by the Peruvian public administration, the project introduced new research approaches based on intelligence and the implementation of new technologies. This was accompanied by legal changes and the fostering of inter-institutional and international work. Professional and personal exchanges between officials are here to stay, facilitating information swaps and problem solving between Peru and the EU.
Opportunities and challenges
It should not be forgotten that the EU is Peru’s main trading partner with which it has significant common interests regarding strategic sectors such as telecommunications, mining, hydrocarbons, fishing, agriculture and natural resources. Improving the rule of law and security in Peru is therefore a challenge the country shares with Europe.
In this sense, it is worth reflecting on the power of positive conditionality mechanisms associated with the effective introduction of the reforms stemming from the framework of the projects or programmes implemented by the EU. We have been and continue to be inspired by the twinnings that have yielded such good results.
To cite just one example, in the case of Peru, the project has promoted legislative change to fight effectively against money laundering, a real problem in this Andean country. This recently formalised change could see key indicators improve to such an extent that, at some stage, the door would open to OECD membership. With its access, Peru will be able to present itself to the world as an open, stable market economy with a clear and reliable legal foundation. This will have a bearing on in its negotiating capacity, positioning the country at a regional and international level. At present, the European Union is technically and financially backing Peru’s entry into the OECD.
Other positive developments, much needed in the region, include the improvement in access to universal public health and the increase in tax collection to meet the State’s expenses. Twinning projects and programmes can be linked to the reforms and results obtained in these sectors.
Given the regional and sub-regional disparity in Latin America, the challenge for the EU is to choose the countries and sectors to deal with in twinning, offering high-quality technical cooperation that is attractive to the various countries. In fact, the regional programmes in Latin America, which currently cover several sectors, such as EUROsociAL+, COPOLAD, EUROCLIMA+ and El PAcCTO can be good instruments to accompany the EU delegations in their selecting of sectoral priorities for twinning in the region.
It will not be easy to adapt this instrument and perhaps it should be reinterpreted given the diversity of middle-income countries. However, it ought to be given a chance, if only to reflect on this when allocating funds from the new European Union budget.
Gerard Muñoz, coordinator of the project to fight drug trafficking in Peru
* The definition of twinning has been taken from the European Commission website