Interview with Munia El Harti Alonso
Munia El Harti Alonso is a very talented international lawyer currently based in Paris. She has worked in large organizations, such as the EU council, EU delegation to the UN and more. She has played an important role by assisting and advising in the legal process of free trade agreements and investment treaties.
She very kindly agreed to an interview with Eurobizweekly.
When part of the EU delegation to the UN, what were your main roles and objectives?
When you join the European External Action Service (EEAS) just as when you join a Ministry of Foreign Affairs your main roles are to represent the entity you work for in my case it was towards the UN System and UN member states, and secondly to report back to the Head Quarters. You are the liaison. In the EU Delegation to the UN we are dealing with multilateral diplomacy, your objectives are to mainly negotiate resolutions as the European Union, while coordinating before with our 28 member states. We aim for consensus on all UN Resolutions.
From a legal perspective, what is most important when negotiating trade agreements?
Nowadays most agreements come in the form of combined trade and investment agreements, such as the well known TTIP, from a legal perspective the most important thing is to maintain a balance between regulation and liberalism, the way each article is written will determine the life of the Treaty with implications such as who can be protected by the Treaty and claim it falls under its protection rationae personae so the scope has to be carefully determined.
How did you successfully help to achieve EU objectives, as an advisor?
First off I had great guidance from the lead negotiator from the Macro-economic section of the EU Delegation, as a junior it is key to have a mentor, especially in diplomacy when it is not only your technical knowledge but also your knowledge of the savoir faire of diplomacy that will allow you to achieve your objectives. My technical skills in business law and trade allowed me to report back to Brussels with exactitude, but it was my previous experience at the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Minister Counsellors mentorship at the EUDEL that helped to construct a strategy for the EU 28 member states in macroeconomic resolutions, as well as to maintain consensus among all UN Member States.
In basic terms, how can legal framework protect against corruption?
Laws are inefficient if not combined with political will, and the equation is synallagmatic, both go hand in hand. Some governments have the will, but not the legal framework which is essential. You cannot act against illegality if it is not considered illegal either because there is no law or no law enforcement. Transparency International in that regard works on the ground with national chapters so that countries can develop capacity building, it achieved tremendous advancements especially in North Africa. At an international level, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and the OECD Anti Bribery Convention have helped to foster political will at an international scale.
You have worked for many international organizations, how did you successfully adapt to the different international legal frameworks?
In the future, what are your biggest ambitions?
I think I adapted because of my international background: I studied international law, and international law as one of my Professors Judge Bennouna said is something you have to live, so I got out of my comfort zone very young, left my household in Brussels when I was 18 to study in France, then I saved some money and decided to spend a semester at UCLA. Sacrifice is something inherent to an international career, and you have to integrate soon and make a choice. I also believe the fact that I acknowledge with pride that my diversity, as half Moroccan half Spanish, allowed me to connect with people from very different horizons.
As to my biggest ambition, younger I said to myself I want to be a lawyer, a diplomat and an entrepreneur at the same time, I want to have an impact on the world in a meaningful way and those are three ways. I mentioned Judge Bennouna earlier because I had him as a Professor during a course at the Peace Palace, and he is the person that touched me the most professionally speaking. He was a lawyer, he started his career in France and reconnected with Morocco after, he then became the Ambassador for Morocco to the United Nations, he was also the Director to the Institute of the Arab World in Paris, and now Judge at the International Court of Justice. Envisaging law practice with diplomacy and social entrepreneurship by promoting the Arab World and the EU: building bridges, I would say is my biggest ambition.
Do you have a motto in life/career?