We cannot change the past, but we can create our future
Raivo Sepp, National Member for Estonia, looks back on 15 years at Eurojust
Raivo Sepp began his legal career as an investigator and then a senior investigator in the prosecution service, dealing with serious crimes (including murder and corruption by high-ranking officials), and was then promoted to Director of the Pre-trial Investigation Bureau, following which he was appointed Police Chief and then Deputy Director General of the Police Board; he was instrumental in carrying out system-wide reforms. In 1998, Mr Sepp was appointed Prosecutor General of Estonia for five years, during which he was again instrumental in carrying out system-wide reforms. Mr Sepp joined Eurojust in May 2004 as National Member for Estonia, during the first wave of EU enlargement. He was elected Vice-President of Eurojust for two three-year terms, starting in 2007.
On the bittersweet occasion of the departure of Raivo Sepp after 15 years at Eurojust, an interview was conducted to reflect on his many contributions to Eurojust’s success.
Have you encountered new challenges in fighting organised crime today as compared to 15 years ago, when you joined Eurojust?
Raivo: ‘Today, almost all fraud cases, the majority of Eurojust’s caseload, are linked to cyberspace or are committed through cyberspace, using IT tools. Many terrorism, drug and human trafficking cases are also prepared or committed using cyberspace. Our infrastructure is vulnerable. Whereas in the past, the criminal justice response took more time, today we must be a step ahead in our response, especially by developing our cyber know-how and IT tools.
Estonia has led the way in the European Union in fully digitalising the criminal justice system. In general, judicial and law enforcement authorities have been too conservative in embracing modern technology. For example, a new challenge is how to investigate crimes using cyber currency. The younger generation must be prepared to lead the way in trapping criminals in cyber space.’
What changes have you seen in the judicial tools available to stop criminals?
Raivo: ‘Improvement has been steady, starting with the European Arrest Warrant and joint investigation teams and now the European Investigation Order. But the real keys to successful judicial cooperation are the willingness to cooperate and speed, smartly using all the available IT tools.
For these reasons, I am a promotor of eJustice, and will continue to promote it, as an advisor and consultant, after my departure from Eurojust. Although still in its infancy, I have great hopes for development of a common EU judicial platform for authorisation and authentication. But the tools are more of a back-up. The main trigger is willingness.’
You spent many years at Eurojust chairing teams devoted to the reform of the organisation. Do you have any insights to share?
Raivo: ‘All reforms should target first performance and then structure. Reform cannot be successful if you start by changing the structure.
First set your objectives and priorities, and then check if the existing structure can support them. To reverse these steps is, to my mind, a classic and fatal mistake.’
What are some of your best memories of Eurojust?
Raivo: ‘The first was the EU enlargement in 2004. Ten new Member States joined. Although some adjustments needed to be made, everyone was excited and began to cooperate immediately. Interesting synergies were created.’
The second was Eurojust’s 10-year anniversary in 2012. The event provided an occasion to look back and set expectations for the future.
The third was the move to Eurojust’s new building. This huge project began with discussions with the Host State and Brussels in 2004. I was part of this planning. The beautiful new building, of which we are all justly proud, supports good work and good results.’
In your 14 years at Eurojust, of what are you most proud?
Raivo: ‘My goal is always to change and improve. I am highly committed, and always rush toward completing a task I have begun.
I chaired two teams at Eurojust: the Casework Strategy and Performance Management Team, for which I initiated strategic planning programmes and prioritised the work of the College; and the Administration Team, for which I tried to close the gap between College and Administration in preparing decisions on administrative matters.
I was Chair of the Steering Committees of the Organisational Structure Review and the Communication Strategy Project. I chaired selection panels for high-ranking administrative positions. I chaired the standing committee for evaluation of National Desks.
I was elected Vice-President of Eurojust for two three-year terms, starting in 2007, with the largest majority of votes by my peers of any College election.
I championed the paperless meeting initiative. I drafted the concept paper for strategic meetings. Last, but not least, I initiated a coaching system for upper-level management positions.’
Do you have any final thoughts on the future of Eurojust?
Raivo: ‘Eurojust’s College is a network of 28 national prosecutors. It fulfils three roles at the same time: (1) a management role, making all strategic decisions; (2) an executive role, running the daily business; and (3) an operational role, doing casework. This situation is against sound governance principles and is never efficient. The roles must be split and the College should rather focus on its core business – casework and judicial cooperation. I really hope that the governance system of Eurojust will be corrected one day. I will be watching new developments closely.’