08 July 2021
We interviewed Cristóbal Guzmán, director of the Digitisation Support programme in Ukraine
Cristóbal Guzmán coordinates EU support for eGovernment and the digital economy in Ukraine. – a cooperation project financed by the European Union and managed by FIIAPP. Be part of our #TalentoPublico initiative in more than 100 countries.
What has been the greatest achievement of your experience as an expatriate expert?
The achievements of other Twinning telecommunications projects that I have had in the past in Poland, Bulgaria or Turkey have inspired me to achieve the forthcoming Digital Ukraine Project. However, often what you think most about in terms of your experience is the failures, because you learn more from them than from achievements.
What are you most proud of?
The most important thing is the people. Creating an environment in which everyone can take part is therefore something that you can be really proud of.
How does your mission as an aid worker and at the same time a public worker contribute, or how has it contributed, to improving the lives of people and/or the planet?
That’s a difficult question. I think that the important thing is to carry out the entrusted tasks in line with the planned roles and targets of the administration or institution where you work.
What is the main value of the public aspect for you?
Without a doubt, the orientation of our work towards people, companies and institutions. Currently, in the European Union-funded Digital Ukraine project that is overseen by FIIAPP, this means the possibility of promoting digital public services, which help the digital transformation of the public administration, bringing Ukraine closer to the EU Digital Single Market.
What have you learned?
I have learned a lot about how professionals from other countries work and how they solve problems, highlighting the many things we have in common.
28 May 2020
José Manuel Colodrás, Police Chief Inspector and coordinator of the FIIAPP-managed and European Union-financed EU-ACT project, tells us about his experiences and his day to day life working and living in Ukraine.
How was your arrival in Ukraine? Do you have any anecdotes from that time?
My first contact with Ukraine was in March 2017, although my final deployment did not take place until May that same year. I was surprised by some Ukrainian customs, relationships and attitudes, among other things, the apparent coldness of the Slavs. It must be said that this was a first impression, since as soon as you earn their trust, you can find friends here who trust in you as much or more so than in Spain, even with the barrier that the language represents.
An anecdote that caught my attention is that the national dish in Ukraine is «сало» pronounced | salo | (bacon) sliced and accompanied by raw garlic and pickles (mainly pickled gherkins). It is usually had as an accompaniment to vodka or other similar drinks (whiskey is as popular here as gorilka, which is what Ukrainian vodka is called. I was surprised, as I did not think that culinary traditions that have totally vanished from many countries in Europe, like that of making salo and pickles at home, were maintained. Family relationships are also something that, while a little differently from how we do it in Spain, are cultivated in Ukraine with meals on Sundays or outdoor barbecues.
And the adaptation period? What were the most and least difficult things for you?
The adaptation period was fast. City life is relatively easy. The hardest thing for me (and I still find it difficult) is adapting to the bureaucratic mentality, inherited from the Soviet tradition that permeates not only the administration but even the work of private companies. Any management task is complicated and the procedures for hiring, for making a simple bank transfer, or requesting a certificate make it extremely difficult to implement our international cooperation projects and, sometimes, also daily life.
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?
I have had previous experiences, but only for a few months (in West Africa: Nigeria and Senegal). As I mentioned, I have been here for 3 years and I have, in principle, a few months still to go, until December 2020.
What is your work like, your daily routine? Is it very different from the routine you had in Spain?
Yes, it must be said that the routine is very different. In Spain as a Chief Inspector with the National Police Corps, personal relationships, both with subordinates and colleagues, and with other institutions and people, occupied most of the time.
In the EU-ACT project, on a day-to-day basis, even before this COVID-19 mandated quarantine, a very significant part of the work was carried out over the internet, especially interaction with other project members: calls, emails, messages and the use of our own project platform that allows us to share all the material in the cloud. In that sense, the work is very different and has made the transition to these times, when teleworking is mandatory, quick and relatively easy.
Personal relationships with beneficiaries (Ukrainians) and with other international partners also take a long time and, in this case, they are also very different. It is necessary to put yourself in the position of being a collaborator and facilitator, rather than trying to be a protagonist in the activities, this makes for a very interesting and enriching change of perspective.
From the point of view of institutional representation, I now represent not only Spain, but the entire European Union, and that, of course, also broadens the vision we have of our work. There is a clear awareness that the EU is a whole and that, from the outside, we are increasingly seen as “Europeans“.
What is the relationship with FIIAPP like?
My relationship with FIIAPP has always been very positive. I would simply say that most of my colleagues are also friends, especially the colleagues who provide support from Madrid, who have made my job much easier and from whom I have learned enormously. What I hope is that this relationship with FIIAPP, which started before this project, will continue when this project ends. Of course, I consider FIIAPP to be a key instrument for the international projection of the Spanish administration, something that historically we have lacked compared to other countries.
How would you rate your experience of working as a FIIAPP expatriate?
As I have commented, it has allowed me to get to know a new work methodology, new areas of knowledge (socio-health issues, public policy development, the operation of international projects) and finally, it has given me a broader vision of my police work. From a personal and even family point of view, it is turning out to be a great experience that not only will I remember all my life, but it will certainly have a great impact on my personal and professional development. It is an opportunity for which I have to thank the Spanish administration and it motivates me to give the best of myself in every activity, event or meeting that I hold within the framework of the EU-ACT project.
08 February 2018
"There is a lot to see in Kiev, many attractions. It is the unknown city of Europe"
We discover Kiev (Ukraine) with Manuel Marión, deputy director of the UE-ACT project seconded to the city. He tells us some anecdotes and about his work within the framework of this European Commission-financed project that is managed by FIIAPP and aims to improve cooperation against drug trafficking and organised crime.
How have you adapted to this country?
It is easy to adapt to Kiev, its a large city where you can find everything. In front of my house I can buy good ham – it is not as expensive as you would image given that it is an imported luxury – and I can also buy olive oil and oranges from Spain.
Kiev has lots to see, many attractions: ballet, theatre… it is the great unknown city of Europe. And it would be worth investing in renovating some of the old buildings that are in the same style as those in the centre of Vienna, where I lived for ten years.
For me it is an advantage speaking Russian, I can more or less communicate with people. Despite the political situation and the promotion of the use of Ukrainian, everyone speaks Russian. The people are affectionate, although they do have a hard time opening up. Most of my neighbours do not even say good morning when you meet them in the lift, unless you know them from somewhere. There is a culture of mistrust, people think that everyone else is a spy or an a government agent who wants to pry into their private lives.
What was most difficult for you and what was least difficult?
It has not been the cold that has been most difficult thing for me. Perhaps understanding the logic used to number the buildings and entrances. On one occasion I took my dog to the vet and I could not find the entrance because it was camouflaged, until I saw a small sign in Russian saying: “Yes, this is the door!”
Is this your first experience outside Spain?
I have lived in different countries for many years: El Salvador, Guatemala, Vienna, Ukraine, etc. with spells in Spain and short periods in the Balkans. Your first experience abroad is the one that marks you in a significant way. The poverty – sometimes it is more misery than poverty – that there was in El Salvador made a great impression on me. I lived in a very rural area. I was amazed to see so many boys and girls walking to a distant school in the mornings, wearing immaculate white shirts.
In Guatamala I lived in the capital and what worried me the most was my family’s safety. There were a lot of kidnappings, a lot of people were “finished”, as they used to say on the news when they murdered someone.
What is your work like and your daily routine?
I travel a lot outside Ukraine, to Central Asia as well as to Africa and Europe. I am abroad for about half the month. I attend meetings we organise as part of the project to discuss the drug problem, mainly in five countries: Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Ukraine, Pakistan and Tanzania.
We have an office in Kiev, where I work with two other experts. I prepare reports, read those written by our experts, I support their activities, etc. Everyday I use Skype, WhatsApp or Viber to talk to various experts and counterparts who are in other countries and, of course, with FIIAPP in Madrid. Email is my main work and communication tool.
I recently spent two weeks in Tanzania, coordinating a team of experts from various countries to assess their ability to investigate the growing trafficking of drugs – mainly heroin – that arrive by sea from Afghanistan and then come to Europe. I also looked at their policy on drug use and the treatment of drug addicts. Incidentally, there is a Spanish NGO there working on their rehabilitation.
What is your relationship like with headquarters in Madrid? What about with your colleagues in Ukraine?
Friendly, without any problems. I mainly spend my time working with María, the programme coordinator, as we have an almost daily “battle” against bureaucratic red tape.
Every country has its customs, and the truth is that in Ukraine when you ask for a formal invoice everyone runs a mile. It is impossible. And I have to tell María that I urgently need some services or materials but they will not give me an invoice…
The team is Marta, Iván, David, and Mónica. They are all very nice and efficient in trying to help out. I should also mention Ana and especially Sara, who are a great help in the personnel department. I have worked with both of them for over ten years on other FIIAPP projects. I must also not forget Charo, in FIIAPP’s communications department.
How would you evaluate your experience of working as an FIIAPP expatriate in Ukraine?
It is a unique opportunity. Due to my frequent trips I do not spend much time in Kiev and I would like to get to know more about its culture, its beauty spots, museums, theatres and its surroundings. Kiev allows me to practice my Russian, which I have been studying for ten years. I travel to many Russian-speaking countries with the project and I am really pleased that I can speak their language. Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union and those times still have a great influence on the country, you have to live in these cultures to get to know them well.
Do you have any experiences or anecdotes about your arrival in the country?
One thing I noticed when I first arrived was seeing grandfathers and grandmothers working. Elderly people, retired people, their pensions are tiny and they cannot live on them. They have to keep on working at whatever they can, until they cannot work any longer as they are too old: they sell fruit, vegetables…so they can scrape together a few grivnas to live off.
At the bottom of the stairs in the metro stations there are old women “watching” to ensure everything is going well. The building caretakers are usually grandmothers, aged 70 or older. And it is impossible to see how they can do their job…The caretakers in my building – there are four who work in shifts and they work day and night – they subjected me to an interrogation to see who I was.
I was also struck by the fact that people are usually very reserved and seem sad. Although – and it can be contradictory – they like to party, just like we do, and there is a lot of night life, although not until as late as in Madrid. I really like salsa music and dancing and few cities have so many venues with Caribbean music and people to go dancing with.
27 April 2015
Posteado en : Radio
April 26th is World Intellectual Property Day. We at the FIIAPP are marking the day by talking about the EU-financed project we are managing in Ukraine for strengthening their intellectual property system.
Since April 2014, we have been managing an EU-financed cooperation project, also referred to as a twinning, in Ukraine which aims to address the market for pirated and counterfeit goods there. The country is plagued by intellectual property crimes ranging from illegal downloading of movies to counterfeiting of medicines.
Under the umbrella of this project, Spanish and Danish experts on the subject will show their work protocols to the Ukrainians. The ultimate objective is to provide greater security to citizens of the country and reduce the current levels of impunity. Results are being achieved already. One of them is the draft law on “Copyright protection on the Internet”.
Learn about the project in detail by listening to our weekly radio show on Radio 5 (RNE), ‘Public cooperation around the world’. Our two cents worth in celebration of World Intellectual Property Day.