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Statements by President of the Government following meeting with Mayor of Barcelona

Barcelona, Friday 7 February 2020

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ, President of the Government

Firstly, I would like to thank the Mayor of Barcelona for her hospitality and also for the working meeting just held between the Government of Spain and the City Council of Barcelona.

Secondly, to also thank the councillor and deputy mayor, Joan and Jaume Collboni, who joined this working meeting with the mayor, with me and also with the Minister for Territorial Policy and Public Function, Carolina Darias, who has accompanied me throughout this visit.

And I would like to pass on the same thing on that I said to the mayor. It seems to me that yesterday we all felt that a new era was opening up in Spanish politics, in Catalan politics, that this Agenda for Rapprochement proposed by the Government of Spain is an agenda full of content, politics, progress and cohesion. In short, full of everything that has been broken for such a long time as a result of political inability.

I have always said that the balance of the last 10 years of Spanish politics in relation to Catalonia has been one of collective failure, in which no politician or party can feel proud of having contributed to resolve it effectively. I believe we need to draw a line under this and move on. And begin a new era.

Hence it made political sense for us to draw up this Agenda for Rapprochement, and we are excited about the start of dialogue, and of starting it on many fronts. The first front is this bilateral committee that will shortly be convened, in the next few weeks between the Government of Spain and the Regional Government of Catalonia to start to offer a political response to what is a political conflict. And hence, we should not get side-tracked as this has only brought pain, and made it much more complicated to resolve this political conflict.

Secondly, the bilateral commission. This is mentioned in the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, and must be reactivated. We did this 16 months ago with the government that came out of the vote of no confidence, and we achieved many good things between the two tiers of government, but there is still a great deal to be resolved.

Yesterday, we proposed 44 points where the Government of Spain, the progressive coalition government formed by the Socialist Party, Unidas Podemos and its related groups, undertook an exercise to see how we could find a positive response. And if we were unable to find a positive response, then an alternative to the different points which, time and again, different Presidents of the Regional Government of Catalonia, over these last 10 years, proposed to the Government of Spain to resolve this political crisis that a good part of Catalan society has been calling for.

What I want to say by all of this is that this Agenda for Rapprochement is not only an endeavour that will be theoretical, as so many others that have done the rounds over these last 10 years, but will be turned into facts, into deeds. This is a government that is not only committed to dialogue, but also to action. We want to take executive action to resolve problems. We want to communicate, in short, in deeds, that this Agenda for Rapprochement is possible and feasible. And this will be very positive for the rapprochement of Catalan society, and for the rapprochement of Spanish society as a whole.

In this context, of course, for us when we were designing the agenda for the meetings, we felt it was vital to meet with the Mayor of Barcelona. We considered it essential, as the Government of Spain, in the 21st Century, which has come to be called the century of big cities, to reactivate some instruments that may seem to be inter-administrative, because many people will consider that what is inter-administrative does not cease to be purely official, and hence bureaucratic.

But these are forums to share opinions, in short, and to share thoughts. But they are also forums to make claims and raise problems which affect the residents, in this case, of the city of Barcelona. And also to share a medium-term vision of what society we want, of what country we want.

That is why what we are going to sign today is so important. That is why it is so important to recover an idea that the mayor said to me over the days preparing the agenda, and which I feel is fundamental - let's stop talking about co-capitals and start talk about something much more integrating - co-leadership.

Spain needs many more drivers of growth. If we want to reach great heights, then we need many more drivers of growth, of development, magnets to attract progress. And I feel that it is essential for a great city like Barcelona to play this vital role.

And in this regard, we need to recover the partnership agreements on culture and science that were designed and approved many years ago now.

And it is essential for us to reactivate this forum to share, this committee we can establish between the Government of Spain and the City Council of Barcelona, because it is true that we must tackle certain challenges, at both a national and a municipal level, such as the climate emergency. Or how digitalisation can be effective. Or tourism, housing policies, social inclusion policies and sustainable mobility.

And we will have a forum for all of this, which was set up back in 2011 by a progressive administration, but which was deactivated as a result of a concept of a country that was very different to that which the progressive coalition of the political parties represented here maintains. And we want to activate it again.

And by reactivating it, we will once again share. Because I believe that, in the end, what is most important, if we want to give an effective response to many of the problems facing our people involves different public authorities sharing ideas.

That is the meaning behind these joint statements the mayor and I are making. That is also the meaning behind the visit by the Government of Spain to the City Council of Barcelona. And it is also the intent we want to convey through this press briefing.

Of all the challenges we face, the mayor and the City Council of Barcelona have always said that housing policies are key. Because housing policies are not only social inclusion policies, they also affect the emancipation of young people. They are policies that also create new opportunities for people with talent that want to come and settle here in Barcelona, and in other large cities.

In short, they are cross-cutting policies that affect how we advocate a model of open, plural and tolerant society from a multitude of perspectives, such as the parties represented in the City Council of Barcelona and the Government of Spain advocate.

And in this regard, what I have conveyed to the Mayor of Barcelona is that we are willing to act in the housing market. We are disposed to act so that housing policy, and particularly the rental market policy is not a barrier that is insurmountable to many groups in the city of Barcelona and in many other cities, to which end the commitment of the Government of Spain, and this is set down in the government agreement signed between the two political forces that make up this coalition, is to indeed comply with what we have agreed.

I will end, quite simply, by truly thanking the mayor for her hospitality. I would also like to express my gratitude for the chance to stand in such an historical room as this. Just look, this year we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the death and the 140th anniversary of the birth of the former President of the Republic, Manuel Azaña. This was a very important room in the history of Spain, and also for a great president and politician as was Manuel Azaña.

And the truth is that this year, 2020, if we can also pay tribute to politics and to people who did so much good for Spanish politics, both for co-existence and concord, as Manuel Azaña did, well, Madam Mayor, the fact that you have allowed me these few minutes in this room, for me personally, not just as a politician, have been a genuine treat.

Thank you.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation