Pasqual Maragall Legacy

Barcelona and Valencia vindicate the role of cities and demand more municipal powers to respond to the great local challenges



The mayor of Barcelona, ??Ada Colau, and the mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribó, have starred in the annual conference of the Fundación Catalunya Europa - Llegat Pasqual Maragall, with the title "Barcelona and Valencia, Mediterranean axis?"

"Barcelona and Valencia have had an economic, cultural and geographical relationship, which must be recovered". This was expressed by Josep Vicent Boira, professor of human geography at the University of Valencia and member of the Advisory Council of the Catalunya Europa Foundation - Llegat Pasqual Maragall, who has moderated the annual conference of the FCE, held in the RBA auditorium, with the participation of the mayor of Barcelona, ??Ada Colau, and the mayor of Valencia, Joan Ribó.

Both Colau and Ribó have agreed on the importance of strengthening municipal powers so that cities can face the great current challenges. "During this pandemic, we have not had the minimum necessary financial support from the Central Government," affirmed the mayor of Valencia. And he added that "the State has to make an effort to trust more with the municipalities." Ribó put, as an example, that the Central Government only plans to allocate 6% of European funds to municipalities, while the resources it usually dedicates are around 15%. Ada Colau, on her part, also coincided with the need for an increase in resources and competences on the part of the cities. For the mayor of Barcelona, ??"the States have to understand that it is not about giving up power, but about gaining the capacity for action to respond to the great local challenges."

The union of Barcelona and Valencia through the Mediterranean corridor has also been one of the key points in the debate between the two mayors. For Colau "it is necessary to make the Spanish government understand that the Mediterranean shore is not only a place of services where receive the tourists, but a productive, innovative and creative area with enormous potential". In numbers, the Mediterranean Arc produces 40% of the Spanish GDP. Ribó, for his part, was convinced that if economic criteria had been taken into account, the Mediterranean Corridor would have been carried out much earlier than other less profitable infrastructures. "In Spain, it is very necessary to think of a diversified area with cities and not of the France-Paris model," added the mayor of Valencia.

In fact, the demand for a rail connection between the two cities comes from afar. Boira recalled, in this conference, an old meeting between the mayors of Barcelona and Valencia, which took place in 1930 in the Catalan capital, with the aim of joining forces to achieve the arrival of the international gauge to the two cities.

The centralization of infrastructures in Spain is "a space-time singularity in the European universe", corroborated the moderator, Josep Vicent Boira. In Spain, the distance between the best endowed territory and the worst is the second highest in the European Union, only surpassed by France. For Boira, this is the confirmation of the failure of the radio communications model promoted by José María Aznar. "How can one speak of the cohesion of a State with these imbalances?", asked the professor of human geography.

Colau and Ribó have agreed on the need to decentralize the State and move towards confederal or federal models. Ribó recognized but that "the centralist mentality is not exclusive to the PP, it encompasses other forces, and not only to the right." That is why he was committed to strengthening relations between cities, such as Barcelona and Valencia. Boira stated that in the near future "cities are called to be the focus of social, cultural and economic development and, therefore, innovative governance funds are needed", an idea that Pasqual Maragall also put on the table, especially during the his time as mayor of Barcelona.

The annual conference was the off-line event organized by the Catalunya Europe Foundation after the pandemic. Its president, Josep Maria Vallès, has expressed the FCE's commitment to promoting city networks, an objective closely linked to Maragall's thinking and which is part of the objectives of the Catalunya Europa Foundation - Llegat Pasqual Maragall.