return to nē43

by Joan Clos
Major of Barcelona

Barcelona has started the autumn after celebrating the festivities of La Mercč with greater emphasis than ever on our Mediterranean heritage and on solidarity, as is only fitting, in keeping with the spirit of the festivities themselves and of the twinning agreement signed with the Israeli city of Tel Aviv and the Palestinian city of Gaza; after commemorating the centenary of the Spanish-American war by having a Cuban guest of honour inaugurate the festivities and by strengthening our ties with Havana; and after kicking off the Virtual Forum 2004. And we did all of this with a renewed determination to do our best during the new season that has just begun, but above all, in the knowledge that our city has not slowed down and has no intention doing so. The evidence is overwhelming.
Barcelona is in the midst of one of the most culturally vibrant periods in recent years. The yearly summer performing arts festival, the Grec, created especially good vibrations. The public’s response, above and beyond mere attendance figures, has confirmed this festival’s growing attraction, with its wide range of artistic expression serving as a prelude to a season that will doubtless live up to the extraordinary expectations that it has aroused. This is the ebullience of creativity and anticipation generated by our city and that, through exchanges such as those found in this publication on the subject of contemporary art, insistently demands adequate opportunities for expression.
The city is attracting more and more visitors who feel that they are missing something essential if they do not see Barcelona. We are rightly satisfied to find ourselves the object of attention and interest as a tourist destination and as a venue for fairs, conferences, and in short, economic promotion. The debate offered in this respect by B.MM. is particularly timely, since not only our prestige, but also, more importantly, the creation of thousands of jobs are at stake. Who, just ten years ago, would have believed that Barcelona would ever exceed seven and a half million overnight stays, as it has this year, or that we could anticipate, as we do now, twelve million for 2003?
In all fairness, I should also mention that the widely deplored but absolutely necessary public works projects are well under way, demonstrating that, in spite of the unavoidable inconvenience, these projects were well-planned and are being carried out efficiently, and that the results will undoubtedly be excellent. At the risk of presumption, I believe that we can be justifiably proud of this sensible and well-reasoned town planning, motivated by a desire to extend quality, with the conviction that Barcelona is laying its own groundwork for a future that has already begun.
This process of urban transformation has, I repeat, mobility as one of its key factors. A factor now backed by agreement and consensus, thanks to the Mobility Accord that we have been able to sign. It is an example of plural and effective participation pursuing a model for sustainable mobility, in an effort to bring forward planning and involvement by all concerned to bear so that we can manage the increase in urban and metropolitan mobility without compromising either economic growth or quality in the process.
I should also point out that we have undertaken an initiative that is the first of its kind in Europe, where the leading players are now moving in this direction. A good example is the White Paper A New Accord for Transport, Better for All, presented recently by the British minister John Prescott. This document clearly advocates the benefits of an integrated system of public transport, one that is safe and environmentally friendly.
The way to implement this new concept of mobility is through an agreement, an accord that, in its definition and content and its emphasis on proximity (first on the local level, then the regional level, and finally the national level) and participation (the White Paper calls for the involvement of companies and social agents), has much in common with Barcelona’s Mobility Accord.
Among other proposals, the White Paper calls for the creation of a Single Transport Authority for Great Britain. Such a single authority already exists for our metropolitan area. We have this single authority, but we must expand its objectives so that we can make the leap forward required by public transport in the metropolitan area, and this means that we must have a plan to determine the investments required to cover transport needs in an integrated manner, promoting the co-ordination of networks, connections between different modes, fare integration and extension of lines.
Our objective is to ensure, within ten years, that public transport is once and for all truly competitive, in terms of time, cost and quality, with private transport. The figures involved are eloquent: we intend to go from the six hundred million trips on public transport per year in the metropolitan area to one billion.
It is on this note that I should like to start the new season, one which promises to be exciting and to oblige us make our best efforts. A new season that we cannot help but undertake with the enthusiasm that this Barcelona on the go inspires in us.