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Madrid & Barcelona: a (great) new opportunity

Madrid & Barcelona: a (great) new opportunity

Pau Guardans, Honorary President of Barcelona Global, defends cooperation between the two great cities of Spain to face the enormous challenges of the post-pandemic context in Expansión newspaper

At a time of justifiable disarray over what the pandemic has meant, means, and will mean to us all, it may be useful to try to draw some lessons from the situation. I don’t believe that a moral dimension should be attributed to this unexpected crisis and that we should get through it by purging our social model of supposed errors of the past and never go back to the way things were before it started in February. This approach, adopted by some, seems to me unjustified, absurd and, above all, both unhelpful and unrealistic.

But this global crisis, which sends us all back to the starting blocks, is also a great opportunity to think again, and, while remembering we have enjoyed 40 years of success and progress, improve some of the many aspects of our country that can be improved.

Uno de los aspectos más evidentes de la situación que hemos vivido es que ha puesto claramente de manifiesto la importancia del entorno urbano. Hemos podido ver con más claridad todavía que es en las ciudades donde el ser humano debe hacer frente a casi todos los desafíos de nuestro tiempo: la configuración de nuestro comercio; la nueva movilidad; la necesidad de un urbanismo que promueva un parque de viviendas en alquiler a precio asequible; la necesaria gestión del éxito turístico (que volverá, ¡aunque ahora nos parezca lejano!); el acceso cercano a un sistema sanitario descentralizado; el uso de las infraestructuras tecnológicas que nos garanticen un entorno digital para el ocio o el teletrabajo, etc. Estos son solo algunos ejemplos de cómo las ciudades son hoy el en- torno ideal para mejorar la calidad de vida y nuestra capacidad de respuesta para el futuro.

Spain has an invaluable asset that is rarely exploited proactively: it has two very attractive global cities in the world that are well able to develop and attract talent. Both Madrid and Barcelona figure in all the lists that rank the cities in which entrepreneurs, scientists, and creators from around the world would like to live and work.

There are more things that unite Madrid and Barcelona than separate them when it comes to getting over the crisis

En la carrera por salir ganadores de esta crisis, por hacer frente con éxito a los enormes desafíos a los que nos enfrentamos, Barcelona y Madrid comparten mucho más de lo que las separa. Deberían aprender de los elementos que han ayudado al éxito de cada una y podrían hacer frente común a muchos retos que el presente ya nos plantea de manera ineludible. Ésta es una gran oportunidad como país y precisa de una visión ambiciosa, no solo desde el ámbito municipal, sino también desde el Gobierno, ya que impulsar una auténtica agenda de Grandes Ciudades sería aprovechar nuestros activos de una manera muy eficiente, además de que serviría para aportar aire fresco al complejo momento político.

One lesson that Barcelona could learn from Madrid is how to take advantage of consolidated metropolitan governance. Let us remember that for similar populations and dimensions (3 million inhabitants and 600 kms2) there is one city council in Madrid, while in Barcelona there are 36 (!). This makes efficient management of urban planning, mobility and the environment very difficult. And conversely, Madrid could learn a lot from how Barcelona has become one of the most significant entrepreneurship hubs in Europe and how tourism management should be made a priority on the city's agenda.

In short, ahead lie colossal challenges which will require public-private partnerships, not only to provide resources but in order to find other ways of doing things. As soon as possible, we should identify our (many) strengths and view cooperation rather than rivalry as the best way to develop. In 10 years there will be winners and losers from this situation and we are in a good position to be winners if we work together rather than separately. The crisis has shown that in difficult times unexpected solutions must be sought in order to respond to challenges successfully, and citizens are demanding far-reaching agreements to help us to move forward. How about starting with our two great global cities?


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