Metropolitan Governance and Spatial Planning: Comparative Case Studies of European City-Regions

By Willem Salet; Andy Thornley et al. | Go to book overview

20

The case of Barcelona

Marisol García


Introduction1

Barcelona - the capital of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain - was the most industrialised urban metropolis in the country until Madrid took the lead relatively recently. The city of Barcelona has a population of about 1.5 million. The population of metropolitan Barcelona - which is constituted by the city along with another 26 municipalities - is about 2.8 million. Finally, the metropolitan region of Barcelona - which comprises 162 municipalities - has a population of about 4.2 million. Given the fact that Catalonia has 6 million inhabitants, the social and economic relevance of the three 'Barcelonas' is considerable. However, the internationally well-known Barcelona is the city itself, especially since the 1992 Olympic Games. The international profile acquired by the city as a result of this event increased international tourism during the 1990s. Urban tourism is one important sector of the development of the service sector in the city, while industry has moved out to the rest of the Barcelona region. As it has expanded, Barcelona has met up with other long established cities generating an urban continuum which plays a strong social and economic role in Catalonia, but has no government or central management institution.

In fact the Barcelona region has seven layers of administration intervening in the territory with various levels of discretion. Barcelona is not an exception in the Spanish context. Politically, the decentralisation of Spain into autonomous communities has involved considerable devolution of resources and functions at the regional level since 1980; however, further decentralisation to metropolises and localities has been very limited. Thus, Barcelona as a metropolitan and regional city lacks a government and governance is fragmentary. Why is this the case? There is no single answer, and yet the explanation falls more in the sphere of politics than in that of socio-economic interests, as this chapter shows.

Local debates about the promotion of the metropolitan region are polarised around two strong leaders: the previous city mayor and current opposition leader in the Catalan government, Pascual Maragall, along with his political party and partisan professionals, and the long-lasting Catalan president, Jordi Pujol. 1 The former has been arguing that the real Barcelona is the region, with central Barcelona as the leading and articulating city and that the institutionalisation of the urban

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