Jorge Sampaio, Barcelona's friend

Last September 10, Jorge Sampaio left us, who was mayor of Lisbon and president of Portugal and above all an excellent person.

I met Sampaio in 1989 when he was running for mayor of Lisbon. He came to Barcelona to get to know some of the projects that Pasqual Maragall had promoted for the city. The connection with Pasqual and the team was immediate. I remember two topics that interested him in particular, the recovery of the seafront and the operation of the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Area (ARI) of Ciutat Vella. Many technicians from Barcelona City Council took part in the projects on the Tagus riverfront, as it passed through Lisbon and the Alfama.

That same year, Sampaio won the municipal elections for mayor of Lisbon and on January 22, 1990, took office as mayor.

During his term as mayor, until 1995, when he left the post to run for the presidency of the Republic, the relationship between Barcelona and Lisbon was strengthened and so did the relationship between Pasqual Maragall and Jorge Sampaio. 

Both played a leading role in defending the role of local governments on the European and international stage. While Maragall chaired the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CMRE), Sampaio chaired Eurocities, a network of cities created in Barcelona in 1989, and they also coincided in the Union of Latin American Capital Cities (UCCI).

I think that one of the most important moments in this relationship was determined by Maragall's conviction, once he was president of the Council of Municipalities and Regions of Europe (CEMR), of the need to work for the unification of the main global networks of cities

In the European case, history had shown us that the unity and coordination of local government associations on our continent entailed greater consideration by the institutions of the European Union. So, with Maragall's leadership, we set off. One of the priorities was to ensure that the two major world organizations were chaired by mayors in favor of unification. The strategy was a success and Jorge Sampaio was elected President of the World Federation of United Cities (FMCU) and Jaime Ravinet, Mayor of Santiago de Chile, President of the International Union of Local Authorities and Governments (IULA).

The road would still be very long, but finally in 2004 the UCLG (United Cities and Local Governments) was set up in Paris and is based in Barcelona and today manages, always with reluctance on the part of some states, to speak and influence on some United Nations decisions.

Jorge Sampaio was elected President of the Republic of Portugal in 1996. One of the last solemn acts of Mayor Maragall before his resignation was the awarding of the distinction of Friend of Barcelona in September 1997 to different personalities, among whom was Sampaio. An emotional ceremony that took place at the National Palace.

Finally, I would like to highlight the intellectual and personal category of President Sampaio. He always maintained a close relationship with Pasqual Maragall and also with the people he met on his first visit to Barcelona as a Lisbon candidate.

I have had the privilege of meeting him on public and private visits to Barcelona and also to the Palace of Bethlehem, while he was president, and later, when he was appointed High Representative of the United Nations by the Alliance of Civilizations. He always remembered my name Antonia and was very affectionate.

Thank you for being part of my life!