Barcelona mayor tells businesspeople expanding the port and the airport "is not a priority"

Colau invites those attending the Cercle d'Economia conference to "lead the 21st century"

3 min
Mayoress Ada Colau during her speech

The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, participated in the inauguration of the Cercle d'Economia conference in the Catalan capital for the second consecutive year and did so by giving examples to prove "the Barcelona project works". Aware her political beliefs were not shared by the businesspeople who filled the Hotel W in Barcelona, the mayor tried to convince her audience "with data not faith, much less sympathy".

Colau has highlighted that "in the year 2021 Barcelona reduced its unemployment rate twice as fast as the city of Madrid" and that it is "the European city with most office hires". All this, she said, has been achieved by "always looking after citizens' health", in a clear reference to Madrid, which chose to apply fewer social restrictions to favour the economy. The mayor assured that "Barcelona's positioning is being recognised internationally" and gave more examples. She began by recalling the recent success of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) and went on to point out that Barcelona has also been chosen to host the America's Cup, the Integrated Systems Events ("the world's largest audiovisual congress") and that it will be the world capital of architecture in 2026. "What is good for Barcelona is good for Catalonia, for Spain and for the Cercle," he said.

The mayor did not avoid contentious subjects during her speech and also referred to the expansion of the port and the airport, two measures that businesses defend, but which are opposed by her party. "We are a city with our own mature project, and we will not say yes to everything. We first want to see whether it fits our model," he said. And expanding these infrastructures would not seem to fit. "It is now not a priority to expand the port and the airport," Colau said, and recalled that "they depend on expensive energy that we do not have, because we do not have energy sovereignty. Our efforts have to be on renewables". Continuing with a defence of her model for the city, she told businesspeople the debate is not "between a city that says yes and one that says no, but that the disjunctive is between the city of the past, based on speculation, developmentalism and pollution, and the city of the future, based on a diversified, cutting-edge and sustainable economy for people". "Some want to stay in the 20th century. I invite them to lead the 21st century".

The mayor also referred, although without quoting them, to the words pronounced last week by Cercle president Javier Faus, during a presentation of this conference. Faus demanded "a series of state pacts" that allow "safeguarding social peace" and assured that in order to achieve it, synergies between the two great Spanish parties, the PSOE and the PP, are needed. "The two-party system is over", the mayor said, and now "we must talk about pacts and coalition governments". For Colau, a PSOE-PP agreement "would be one of the most serious mistakes: it is the opposite of what we need. We need pacts that respond to the great challenges, such as combating inequality", which has reached such a level that it "threatens social peace".

Reproach over the lack of women

The mayor's first reproach, however, was over a gender issue. As soon as she took the floor, Colau congratulated the Cercle d'Economia for having chosen Barcelona to hold the conference and also for the name they have given it, Europe's moment. But that was the end of pleasantries. Then the mayor said: "We women are here, we have talent, we are in politics and in the economy, but there are still prejudices" and, pointing to the audience, she added: "The only women in the front row are political representatives" (referring to herself and the Minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera). And after recalling that there are also women in business, she said: "I hope that in future editions they will be fully represented".