Interview with Mr. Carles Puigdemont Casamajò, Mayor of Girona
- Mayor, what are the strengths / priorities of the city of Girona?
The city of Girona has great potential in tourism, commerce, culture and academia, which it develops in its dual capacity as both a municipality and a regional capital.
In the current crisis situation, the priority is to create jobs, and to encourage business and wealth by building a city model that will help to overcome the current crisis, to respond to future challenges, and to contribute to shared progress in terms of globalisation.
Girona therefore focuses its strategy on three main lines of work with a European and international outlook:
1) Smart City
This is based on three core areas of management: “Historic District 30 years”, “Sustainable Urban Management” and “University District”.
2) High-speed railway
Work is performed through the Department of the Mayor’s Office responsible for the railway project, and features participation at the Summit of Mayors for High Speed and involvement in the ENTER.HUB project of the URBACT programme, which is headed by the city of Reggio Emilia.
3) European and international strategy
This features two core aspects: the local aspect, for promoting local activities with an international scope, and the transnational aspect, that involves participation in the EUROTOWNS network of medium-sized European cities, in the Catalan Cross-border
Territory Eurodistrict process together with France, and, in other cooperation structures and in European and international projects.
- Why is it important for Girona to be engaged in dialogue with other European cities?
Dialogue and interaction with European cities, and particularly with middle-sized European cities, enables us to learn, and where possible to contribute, best practices in different areas of local authority responsibility and management. It thus represents a basic element with which to achieve standards of efficiency and excellence in municipal management. Girona is also a city with a European outlook, a long tradition based on its history (it was founded by the Romans in 70BC) and geographic location (it lies on the Via Augusta), and an ongoing commitment to European integration.
- Eurotowns is a network for small and medium-sized cities in Europe. Why should your city participate in this network?
Medium-sized cities such as Girona and other Eurotowns city members can learn from our benchmark capitals, the large cosmopolitan European cities in the Eurocities network. In comparison, however, we are much smaller in size, and in managing services this can yield both advantages and disadvantages of scale. We also play a specific role in territorial order (which differs from that of major cities) by placing great emphasis on relations between our cities and our rural territories. The peer cooperation provided by Eurotowns is therefore useful. Cooperation within the Eurotowns framework is, moreover, not only in the own interests of cities, but also enables us to build models and to establish best urban management practices and thus help fulfil the objectives of sustainable development, both in Europe and internationally.
- What are the challenges European cities have to meet?
The major current challenges are to ensure social cohesion against the background of the crisis and to maintain the territorial conditions that make continuity in local progress feasible. It is therefore important to consider the analyses of the UN-HABITAT report entitled “State of the World’s Cities 2012/2013. Prosperity of Cities”, which confirms the global trend towards concentration of the majority of the population in cities and, in this context, stagnation in the growth of the urban population in the most advanced nations, which includes European countries. It also notes that the prosperity of cities requires consideration of infrastructure size, quality of life, social equity and inclusion, and environmental sustainability and productivity, areas in which local authorities have a crucial role to play in interrelations and management.