1999 is drawing to a close and we stand on the threshold
of 2000, an emblematic number, one that is laden with the best intentions
and, at last, just around the corner. We are approaching the end of
a particularly intense year, marked, among other events, by anniversaries
that were highly significant and - historical coincidences aside -
representative of a persistent will.
Twenty years of democratically elected town councils,
two decades of progress and aspirations during which municipalities
and cities, in protecting the interests of their citizens, have grasped
the most profound and immediate values of the most vital and everyday
Twenty years of the Statute of Autonomy, with a
major step forward for Barcelona being made recently in its development
with the approval of the Municipal Charter, but with unfinished business
remaining, such as the territorial organisation of Catalonia, which
is equally essential for the city, the metropolitan area and the region
as a whole.
The centenary of the birth of Josep Tarradellas,
a president who put dialogue and consensus before differences and
who skilfully directed the transposition of historical legitimacy
to a democratic framework and who saw Catalan nationalism and municipalism
as travelling companions on the way leading to a strong and balanced
And the 750th anniversary of the privileges granted
to Barcelona by James I, an event that marked the beginning of the
city's municipal government and that is the subject of commentary
and analysis in the Central Section of this month's issue of BMM.
Barcelona was formally incorporated as a municipality in 1249. It
was the Barcelona of the Council of the One Hundred, with extensive
powers and substantial influence outside its boundaries, and entitled
to mint coinage and establish diplomatic relations. Barcelona had
gained the confidence of the country's ruler through the faithfulness
and trustworthiness shown by the city's inhabitants.
Underlying this circumstance was a city that was
taking shape as such and the will to promote the organisation of cities
as a power to counteract the might of feudal lords. In this way, cities
were progressively incorporated throughout the country as bulwarks
of royal power against feudal power. From 1249 on, Barcelona's political
weight grew and it extended its protection to other municipalities.
This gave rise, however, to two consequences that were just as or
even more important: the consolidation of a feeling of belonging -
to city and a nation - and the continuous reinforcement of the sense
of citizenship - something quite different from the sense of being
the subject of a king or a feudal lord. Barcelona became a spearhead
and the driving force behind a new way of understanding the relationship
between citizens and authorities. The Council of the One Hundred is
rightly recognised as one of Europe's first democratic institutions.
The Barcelona of that time already had the role
of capital and at the same time transmitted the values of civic-mindedness
and urbanity in the widest sense of those terms and as characteristic
traits of urban reality. We can draw parallels between those circumstances
and the present. A present in which Barcelona aspires, more than ever,
to act as the capital of Catalonia.
Barcelona wants to continue representing, leading
and defending Catalonia, carrying out all the functions of a capital
city. Barcelona accepts all of its obligations to the region as a
whole; this is an essential responsibility. But in order to live up
to that responsibility, we require confidence. Barcelona is at the
service of Catalonia, but it demands recognition, effective support,
loyalty and ambition, room to fulfil itself and be creative.
Over the centuries, when Barcelona has progressed,
all of Catalonia has been able to progress. Barcelona is now at a
peak and that is the sort of capital it wants to be: the best one
possible. We want to be the capital and we want solutions. Without
solutions, leadership by our capital city will not be the leadership
that we all aspire to.
Our city has set an example of the ability to govern,
of consensus and commitment, but also of demanding that which rightfully
pertains to us, not because of privilege but in all fairness and for
the benefit of the city itself and all of Catalonia.
As we approach the new century and the new millennium,
now so close that we can almost touch them, Barcelona is laying claim
to its status as capital city. It is doing so while reasserting its
defining values and it is determined to put them into practice. Dialogue,
trustworthiness, civic-mindedness, coexistence, solidarity, democracy,
concepts that point up the difference between the history that we
found already written down until only recently and the history that
we are now in the process of building. The difference between what
we have now granted to ourselves and the end of a decade - the 1930s,
remembered in these pages in the review of the century - the end of
a civil war and a long period of darkness that oblige us to learn
from the past and build a future founded on liberty, the well-being
of our people and the region's progress.