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Xavier_Trias_Passeig_de_Gracia_2 Xavier_Trias_Passeig_de_Gracia Xavier_Trias_Javier_Pereda

Xavier Trias interview

Being mayor of this city is an honour and a privilege, but also a huge responsibility. This position requires one hundred per cent dedication, especially at a time as difficult as the present one, with such a severe economic crisis.

Category: Barcelona | 22 January, 2012
Editor: Paseo de Gracia

First, we would like to congratulate you on being the first the Mayor of Barcelona from your party, CiU. Now that you’ve been a few months in office, and keeping in mind the economic crisis that we’re in, should we congratulate you or feel sorry for you?

Being mayor of this city is an honour and a privilege, but also a huge responsibility. This position requires one hundred per cent dedication, especially at a time as difficult as the present one, with such a severe economic crisis. When I was sworn in as mayor I was well aware of the many challenges that lay ahead, but I don’t run away from difficulties. I am here to work hard for the citizens of Barcelona.

What makes a person put themselves up for the position on Mayor of a town? Does it take a special kind of person? If all goes well, no problem, but if you when bad times are coming they have to meet the voters while waiting in the queue to buy bread…

I start from the basis that politics requires a commitment and some very specific values: constant work, pushing oneself to give one’s best, responsibility and humility. We politicians are here to serve people; we’re here to work hard and to provide solutions. And above all to listen to everyone.

I put myself up as Mayor of Barcelona, first of all because I’m in love with this city and I think it has got huge assets that have not always been promoted as they should be. Second, because it was necessary to give new push behind Barcelona, to imprint a new leadership and new ways of doing things. A change in the meaning and in the ways was needed, and now that we’ve spent six months at the head of the City Council we’ve given concrete evidence that it little time so many things can be done and, above all, better things.

Being Mayor of a city like Barcelona is certainly a challenge for any politician, but what are the major challenges for the city in the coming years?

I have two major challenges—two obsessions, if you’ll let me use the word. The first is to fight against the economic crisis by helping to create jobs. The second is to ensure there is an emphasis on our social welfare policies and to work to serve people.

Pasqual Maragall, for example, will go down in history as the Olympic Mayor. How would you like people to remember Mayor Trias?

Pasqual Maragall was a great mayor, but not only for the Olympics: he was the architect of Barcelona as it stands today. Mayor Maragall had the courage and vision to transform this city and carve out a place in the world for it. Now that we’ve just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the nomination of the 92 Olympics I think is a good time to praise the entire legacy he left us as Mayor.

What I want is to recover that same enthusiasm that we lived in the late eighties so as to give new push behind Barcelona. This city has some unique assets: a prestigious brand, a privileged position, first-rate infrastructures, entrepreneurship, culture, tradition, a competitive economy, well-trained people and I could add many more. We must take all these assets and look forward with optimism and go forward with the Barcelona of the future with a strong determination.

Let’s talk about Passeig de Gràcia. You were born in Rambla de Catalunya where it meets Consell de Cent, very near here. What does this iconic avenue mean to you as a citizen of Barcelona?

For me, one of the best examples of what really makes Barcelona is our Mediterranean spirit: a combination of culture, architecture, tradition, trade, people. But, above all, one of the things I like most is that Passeig de Gràcia is a key meeting point that brings together world-class businesses and a wide variety of restaurants and art.

Tell us about about something special that you’ve lived in Passeig de Gràcia…

When I was young I lived in Rambla de Catalunya 45 and I remember that every Sunday I went walking from home at my parents’ to Passeig de Gracia 31, because there was a bakers called Prats-Fatjó just next to the carrer Diputació. My parents used to buy the Sunday cake there—really delicious cakes—, and then the whole family, my parents and all my brothers, we walked from there to Plaça Tetuan, where my grandparents lived.

We all have a secret place or a favourite corner in Passeig de Gràcia. What is yours?

There are places in the Passeig de Gràcia of which I have great memories, especially childhood memories. I especially remember a place called Saló Rosa, which was between the carrer d’Aragó and the carrer de València, right where the Boulevard Rosa now is. There I took my first communion. As you can imagine, it was a very special day. Also, I remember that that day the magician Cartex (Ramon Camprubí) was there. He was very popular then and he happened to be a distant relative of my family. He gave all us children plenty of entertainment with his games. Whenever I go by there now it all comes back to me.

And as Mayor, what do you think Passeig de Gràcia means to this city? What role does it play in projecting the image of Barcelona to the rest of the world?

It is certainly one of the landmarks of our city and an asset that we must promote appropriately. We have just held a few days ago, for example, the Shopping Night, which attracted many people and highlighted the variety of all the quality shops and restaurants that can be found in the magnificent Passeig de Gràcia.

Many people think that the Passeig de Gràcia has turned its back to Barcelona in favour of luxury tourism. What do you think?

We have made them compatible. We have to commit ourselves to a good-quality tourism that benefits Barcelona, that makes Barcelona grow and, above all, that doesn’t make any citizen feel excluded from their own city. You’ve probably heard me say it before: I’m committed to a tourism that make us grow, not diminish, and this means a tourism with more purchasing power that above all respects what Barcelona is, our identity.

Recently works have started on improving the fountain in Gran Via. Is this the first step in tackling the reform of Passeig de Gràcia that for some time the Associació d’Amics de Passeig de Gràcia has been asking for?

We are aware of the serious lack of maintenance that Passeig de Gràcia has been suffering for some time. We want to put in place a thorough and permanent maintenance of the avenue, ensuring the quality of the public areas and the excellence in urban design.

Throughout history, people have travelled through Passeig de Gràcia on horse, in trams, in trolleybuses, in cars, on motorbikes… When are we going to get a Bicing lane?

There is something that, if I may, you not have mentioned: above all people have travelled through Passeig de Gràcia on foot.If you’ll pardon the pun, it’s a walk where you can walk, and you can do it calmly, enjoying the amazing architectural gems, the wide variety of shops and the remarkable restaurants. And that must be preserved. However, with regard to other transportation, I’m committed to modes of transportation that prioritise pedestrians and public transport.

The metro Passeig de Gràcia is known as pickpocket line. What steps is the council is taking to improve traveling safety there?

Improving this city’s safety standards is an obsession of mine. So one of the first steps I took as Mayor was precisely to improve coordination between the Guàrdia Urbana and the Mossos d’Esquadra, because for some years there has been a lack of coordination that didn’t benefit anyone. We have also made the police go down into the Metro system and focus their efforts on this particularly delicate location. This joint work is paying off very well: crimes committed have fallen by 25%, arrests have increased and care given to victims has improved substantially.

Another frequent source of complaints is the Renfe train station. During the summer it’s like an oven and when it rains heavily it gets flooded. Twitter is always full of complaints. Although it isn’t administered by the City Council, are you planning any action plan to improve this hot spot?

We’re in talks with the competent authorities on this matter to improve out city’s infrastructure. This is a crucial aspect to give a new push to our city. I want Barcelona to have first class infrastructure: it’s what we rightfully deserve as capital of Catalunya and as economic capital of southern Europe and the Mediterranean. That’s why I have strongly demanded that the railway structures be up to standards, just as I have demanded the Mediterranean Corridor, access to the Port and a series of investments that Barcelona needs.

Since January last year, due to the implementation of the Llei de Memòria Històrica, the obelisk in the Diagonal is lacking in meaning. Does your administration intend to socially rehabilitate the monument that has always lived surrounded by controversy?

I think it’s the people that have to give a new meaning to the obelisk and define what should be done through a gradual process so that everyone can have their say. This monument in particular has had different meanings at different times in history. This place is popularly known as “Cinco de Oros”, owing to the image created by the central roundabout and the four lamps that surrounded it. After it has lived various historical vicissitudes and changes and it has represented completely opposite things. Now I think the citizens will have to give it a new meaning. The only thing I ask is that this process is done with respect and full adherence to democratic values and freedom.

Here at Passeigdegracia.com we have launched a campaign using social networks to gather ideas and suggestions to give a new meaning to the obelisk. You are a very socially connected Mayor with profiles on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. What would you think about organising a referendum on the Internet so that the people of Barcelona can have their say about the obelisk?

I think it is important to encourage citizen participation at all levels and encourage more people to participate in decision-making. And new social networks like Facebook and Twitter offer a unique opportunity to channel and visualise people’s demands and suggestions. I think the initiative that you have undertaken in this regard shows that we are making progress in this field.

Before finishing, we would like to know your opinion about our project Passeigdegracia.com, whose aim is to promote and disseminate the values ??of our city, such as design, art, culture or the food inside and outside of our country.

I congratulate you for your project, because everything that helps to give new push to Barcelona deserves to be congratulated. I said it before: this city has some unique assets that we must promote and publicise. And Passeig de Gràcia in particular is one of these unique assets that must be highlighted. It’s good to know that there are people who love this city, who are aware of the potential we have, and that are helping us to give Barcelona the new push it needs.

What lines of support are there or what kind of institutional support is available for projects “made in Barcelona” such as ours, the result of a collaboration between independent professionals and entrepreneurs?

I’ve always said it: the City Council will back anyone that backs Barcelona. This especially means standing by entrepreneurs who want to make their project a reality and who know that Barcelona has some unique features that can foster new opportunities for business. We have undeniable assets in this field, which is our city brand. We have one of the most powerful city brands in the world, a brand that is internationally renowned. Barcelona is synonymous with success.

And finally, now that the new year 2012 is near, have you got any special message for the people of Barcelona?

I’d like to give out an optimistic message. I’m well aware that we are going through a very rough economic situation, the social consequences of which are undeniable. We have important challenges ahead, but I’m sure that with hard work, with a sense of responsibility and joining all our efforts we will come through it all. I have no doubt about it.

Photography: Edgar Melo Interview Xavier Trias Mayor of Barcelona: Javier Pereda, Alfredo Cano


Category: Barcelona | 22 January, 2012
Editor: Paseo de Gracia




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