A new governance for the Barcelona Metropolitan Area


José Enrique Ruiz-Domènec

Cent’s Consell as an example

Memory of a municipal institution

The first steps in the constitution of the Council of Hundred, the Consell de Cent, are linked to the economic policy of King James I, well defined in 1265 in the decree of incorporation of a local Consell consisting of one hundred prohoms or jurats. Before, in the fifties, a series of privileges, edited by Antonio de Capmany and Monpalau in his monumental historical memoir on the navy, commerce and arts of the ancient city of Barcelona, allowed to place the city of Barcelona at the height of the other major commercial metropolises of the western Mediterranean, in particular Marseille, Genoa, Pisa, Livorno, Naples and Palermo; and he did so thanks to men such as Ramón de Plegamans, rich citizen of Barcelona, very practical at sea, as King James I says in the Llibre dels feyts. By one of those fortunate chances of history, the creation of the Consell takes on the same tone as the interest of the royal household to take over the Kingdom of Sicily as a key piece in an expansion by some Mediterranean islands that would allow it to enter the well-healed overseas spice business. 

In Barcelona, in the last third of the thirteenth century, with the passage from the Crown of James I to his son Peter the Great, married to the highly distinguished Constance, descendant of Emperor Frederick II, everything is scrambled: the interest of honest citizens is to stand at the forefront of the routes of international trade in what the great medievalist Roberto Sabatino López called the world of open horizons; the Consell de Cent is the key piece in this decision to turn Barcelona into an important commercial metropolis. A series of decisive events happen at live pace, the Sicilian eves, the French invasion, the change of cultured language from Provence to Catalan with which Desclot writes the chronicle, the consolidation of the entrepreneurial bourgeoisie. The royal house supports all initiatives to the point of sending one of the most conspicuous representatives of honest citizens, Guillem Durfort II, whose mother Saurina was queen Constance’s trusted lady, to negotiate with Pope Boniface VIII, a splendid autocrat, the legal status of the Crown in the litigation for Sicily. A recommendation of the king, before Guillem Durfort II (“a bourgeois from Barcelona qui era seu e de sa casa”, writes Declot), becomes a wake-up call from the many that were at stake in those years, the future of the city of Barcelona devised from the Consell de Cent

Soon, sooner than you could imagine, James II, the youngest son of Peter the Great, comes to the throne due to the accidental death of his older brother Alfonso the Liberal. A king of great decisions who is involved in making the city of Barcelona the center of a community of commercial interest. These interests are reflected in the improvement of urban planning, with the passion of citizens honored to decorate their houses with paintings of chivalrous theme. Even the king himself, in supporting the construction of the monastery of clares in Pedralbes for the retirement of his last wife Elisenda de Montcada, is uniting the economic development of the city with the mendicant morality, after all the Franciscans and the Dominicans set the value system of this increasingly limited society; indeed an oligarchy with the image of an urban patrician. 

The book Regiment de princeps by the Franciscan Francesc Eiximenis traces the plan of the ideal city, a quadrilateral in whose center is located the square of the cathedral, divided into four neighborhoods, one for mendicant order. The first decades of the fourteenth century were a promising time, as Ferrer Bassa reflected in his delicious paintings in Pedralbes. By 1330 there was optimism and hope among the Barcelona population who, having already surpassed the fabulous gestations of the late thirteenth century, was excited about economic expansion, an expression that evoked the beginning of a Catalan era in the Mediterranean. People began to imagine a worldly future capable of reconciling private luxury with mendicant piety. Barcelonans aspire to receive good income to improve their homes thinking about the need to build a new wall as a symbol of the growth of the economy. Huge trust prevailed in their institutions always linked to loyalty to the royal household. The opulence made these decades a promising period. Prosperity presented tantalizing opportunities to stand on an equal footing with the great maritime powers in the spice business, while planning to remake the culture under the matrix of Mediterranean Gothic that began to leave excellent samples in hospitals, churches, convents and palaces of the upper bourgeoisie. But the new changes required leaders capable of prioritizing and making decisions. It was at this point that the balance was broken and not in a supposed, and certainly very exaggerated crisis of the agrarian economy of the Principality. Let’s look at this point in detail. The story is often more complex than the simplified stories of today’s taste. 

Avatars of a municipal institution 

Praised by the agrarian crisis but mostly decimated by the erroneous politics of the Generalitat, the members of the Consell de Cent who represented the citizens of Barcelona, in the mid-14th century, nevertheless, were on their way to one of the great times of its history. That atmosphere was often critical of some measures taken by the city government but it was always lozana and attentive to the values that were warned in the future. A part of them were preparing to receive the good news of Italian humanism that with Petrarch and Bocaccio had acquired full maturity. The literary salons of the ladies of Barcelona ask Bernat Metge to translate into Catalan the last tale of the Decamerón, which refers to the history of Griselda. And so it does so in honor of Mrs. Guimer, who reads it in her social circle with a remarkable event. 

A promising future opens before the city of Barcelona as the members of its distinguished council think in front of two scourges that remain as an evil weight: first, the political corruption that sends to prison many men linked to the finances of the state in a famous litigation that had as its main accused the Piedmont financier Luchino Scarambi , and secondly the urban violence that ends up causing the unpleasant pogrom of 1391 in which the houses of the Jewish call are looted. But the dream of a better society is expanding among council members amid a huge political conflict than in the Caspe Commitment of 1412 ended up introducing a new dynasty into the royal house. 

Investments recovered, the vital tone of the city was again felt in the good running of business or maritime trade, the Taula de Canvi served as a support for small business, corruption slowed even though political tension with the symphonies of the Count of Urgell, called “Jaume el Disortat”, who, from the lands of the interior of Catalonia, , they demanded the crown for him, declaring illegitimate the agreement reached in Caspe in which the honest citizens of Barcelona had so much influence, and therefore partly the deliberations of the council. The art world was re-secreted. That was very important. With an allegorical tone with Lluís Borrassá that presents a boy at the window watching the world pass before his inquisitive gaze; symbolic with Bernat Martorell who represents the problem as the opposition between a imprisoned princess and a Dragon defeated by St. George with his spear in ristre. But, finally, we had to look for the neutral, objective, realistic zone. In 1445 Lluís Dalmau set out to do in Barcelona what the great Flemish master Jan Van Eyck was doing in Ghent and Bruges: to impose a new pictorial language where the truth of a society that bets on well-being is expressed. But this truth to which they aspire is not the transcendental truth of the mendicant clerics who still snorted in public squares (and in the pulpits) with allegations of a culture common to all, but the truth of nature. Facts as they are. Clear, sharp, to show the tone of a society And this is where you perceive the influence of a mentality that you should not call bourgeois without betraying your deep aspirations, but that characterized all the People of Barcelona who wanted to improve the social life of their city. A practical human group, oblivious to the whirlwind of the ideologies that dominated the social conflicts between The Seek and the Biga, between those who believed in the dynasty and those who hated it, those who dreamed of being part of a strong state and those who were content to mourn a past that had never really existed. 

In the middle, of all this barahúnda, many Barcelonans learned the trade with precision. Indispensable to judge at first sight the objectives of the modern world that was at the gates. It was about understanding the market, the world of business widespread all over the world, the beginning of a rebirth of the city. They wanted to impose that part of the ragione that the Italians said of their time, a reason that is not the ecclesiastical ratio, but the reason for the business, of the well-made work, of the morality of work. And here Lluís Dalmau receives the commission of the municipal council. Note well: receive the order; that’s the big novelty of the moment. And he paints on Flemish oak wood, and oil, La Virgen de los Consellers, where he makes veristic portraits of the political leaders who had asked for this painting. The work is an icon of Barcelona at the gates of an economic take-off. The reform carried out by King Alfonso the Magnanimous ten years after the commission to Dalmau means an increase in the number of jurats of the Consell de Cent to accommodate each of the four states, honest citizens, merchants, artists and menestrals, and thus the number reached the figure of one hundred twenty-eight, thirty-two for each station. The duration of the Consellers’ position was also fixed, two years, and the commissions were created to activate this agency. 

Unfortunately, the danger continued. Far from the values of the modern world, perceived on the horizon, the reaction was brewed in the name of the essences of an invented homeland. Next, a pernicious tradition develops for Catalonia: the rebellion of the Generalitat against the King, and its nefarious corollary, the civil war, which lasted ten years, between 1462-1472. The decade when everything was bad. Will it do any good to know this story? 


In February 2019, the Institut d’Estudis Regionals i Metropolitans in Barcelona, the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB) and the Pla Strarat-gic Metropolit published the work “QUINES POL-LABELS PER A QUINA METROPOLI”, in their presentation Ada Colau stated:

“The 21st century is called to be the century of cities, as they have become the main spaces of collaboration, innovation and momentum of the world economy, in the same way as the great challenges of today’s society (climate change, the growth of inequalities, the crisis of trust in democratic institutions technological change and large population movements) also have a markedly urban decline.”

It is an idea, without a doubt, powerful and that we can share; but that needs to be completed to the extent that the great challenges that Ada Colau synthesizes have an urban decline; but they also have a dimension that far exceeds the urban and goes far beyond state borders. These are global problems that require global responses.

That is why we can say that the 21st century will be, in addition to the century of cities, the century of global governance, just as the twentieth century was the century of the bordered blocs and the two world wars, and the nineteenth century of states and Imperialism.

It is powerfully striking that the five challenges that the mayor of Barcelona and president of the AMB identifies are as complex in their causes as in the policies they require to deal with them. They are problems where economic causes overlap others of a political nature and that, having a strong “urban” component; but also a supra-state extension, require solutions defined at the global level, sanctioned at the state level and applied many times at the local level.

We face challenges that require the collaboration of multiple public administrations, which not only belong to different states, but often respond to different cultural patterns and operate, primarily, on distant and different territories and populations, even though their actions may affect us all. We must establish models of collaboration between administrations and we must make it aware that representative democracy is, at the same time, a mechanism for the solution and one of the problems to be solved.

We are committed to improving global, state and local governance systems if we are to respond to the challenges we face, and to be effective and fair.

 The document to which we have referred to the principle of this chapter, includes several sections: the first two relating to the “challenges and proposals of metropolitan governance” in the territorial area, in the institutional (political power, citizen participation and democratic legitimacy) and in that of specific metropolitan policies and projects, the third section includes individual contributions on the potential of the WBA and its external projection , the future of cities and metropolitan strategic planning, the inclusive and sustainable economic development of metropolitan Barcelona and “last but not least” a reflection on the governance of metropolitan mobility that responds to the challenges of digitization and the environment.

To this we must add that the publication of No. 61 of the Papers de l’Institut d’Estudis Regionals i Metropolitans de Barcelona, carried out very shortly before, is entitled “METROPOLITAN GOBERNANZA” and that, also contemporaneously, the AMB made public the “DREAM Project” (diagnosis. metropolitan reflection, strategy and action) a strategic reflection with three axes:

(I) Social and territorial cohesion (inclusion)

(Ii) Urban metabolism (sustainable mobility, energy transition, climate change and pro-diversity)

(Iii) Governance (technological sovereignty and transparency)

It must be noted that governance has become one of the main issues on the agenda of the City council of Barcelona, the scientific community and the AMB, being also the central core of No. 9 of the publication “Politics & Prosa” dated April 2019 and entitled “Les Claus de Barcelona“. It cannot be surprising, in this context, that it is also the central core of this new BDF publication.

Concern for governance is not just a priority for our municipal and metropolitan authorities, but is shared by leading political scientists and important international institutions aware that the world faces global problems that require global responses, responses that can only be implemented by developing and maintaining a robust Principle of International Legality.

Strengthening international legality becomes more necessary at a time when not only are the problems we face global, but also the political and economic context in which we live, a “globalization” that, even in the opinion of its harshest critics, is irreversible.

This is The view of Joseph E. Stiglitz formulated in 2002 in one of his best-known works: “The Unrest in Globalization”. In this work, written at a time when the 2008 crisis was not yet foreseeable, Stiglitz argues that globalization is not working properly; but that neo-protectionism is not the solution, but we must think about an improvement in governance at the global level.

To put it in his own words:

“Today’s globalization doesn’t work. For many of the poor on Earth, it’s not working. For much of the environment it doesn’t work. For global economic stability it does not work.”

And this being your opinion, we also want to highlight your diagnosis about the cause of this malfunction:

“Globally, the reason globalization doesn’t work is governance.”

Also, the path to the solution:

“The most fundamental change required for globalization to work as it should, has to occur in governance.” In other ways, “we must govern globalization.”

In our previous work “A project for metropolitan Barcelona”, we affirmed that Barcelona is a metropolis connected to the nodal network of cities where knowledge and innovation is concentrated, the network where the future is built. We are part of a whole that is questioning its governance model while we question our own model.

We live in a time when the gaze is focused on an overly limited and close “we”. This attitude often makes us forget that we share problems with many others and that we can find help working collaboratively with others, near or farther, as well as the answers we need, while sharing our experiences.

It is true that on a global level we have long since abandoned the conviction that liberal democracy and the market economy are the highest state of human evolution, it is true that the very idea that a system can be considered the end of history has been replaced by the conviction that history, sooner or later , takes all systems to an end.

This change of optics often seems to come from a deep disappointment that affects, in a very general manner, the institutions of government at all levels and which, in particular, constitutes a crisis of confidence in democracy.

This is the intellectual climate in which we are considering the reform of our governance and that is precisely why we consider it of fundamental importance to be of fundamental importance to be clear about the principles by which we should be governed. Once again, we will borrow the words of Stiglitz:

“Good governance must be based on a few simple principles of representativeness, legitimacy, transparency and accountability.”

We’ll go back in detail about them.


1.- What’s happening to us?

We are witnessing a change of great importance that can have unforeseeable consequences for our societies, consequently, for our lives. The disaffection towards democracy of much of the citizenship of Western countries.

In 1989, six months before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama wrote a brief article in the magazine “National Interest” entitled “The End of History”. His thesis was later expanded by publishing his best-known work “The End of History and the Last Man” in 1992, insisting that liberal democracy and the free market had become the form of social organization on a planetary scale without there being an alternative that could discuss that hegemony and noting that this system had proven to be compatible with any of the civilizations existing in the world.

In Fukuyama’s thesis, the end of history obviously did not mean that facts of historical relevance could not occur, but there would not be a project of social, political and economic organization alternative to the then dominant.

Paradoxically, reality seemed to initially confirm Fukuyama’s thesis with the demise of the USSR and China’s incorporation into the market economy, and later radically contradicted it. The dominant perception today is that we are not living at the end of history, but a time when the market economy is creating strong tensions and is causing a widespread and widespread loss of confidence in the Western middle classes that seem to be questioning simultaneously, globalization and its results and the effectiveness of the democratic representation system.

Statistically, globalization has led to a significant decline in poverty in the world, but at the same time it has led to an exponential increase in inequality. Wealth accumulates every time in the hands of less, while the middle classes become impoverished until they feel that their economic and social status is at risk.

2.- Five books

Growing sectors of the Western population see that democracy is not working because of these risks and as a visible consequence:

1 Representatives live as far away from those represented…

 2 There is no trust in politicians on the part of citizens.

People distrust democracy because they have let them down. And that translates into low voter turnout and disinterest in politics. The hope that apparently brought about the end of the Cold War has ended up giving way to growing frustration. It has not been the “end of the story” and we will have to prevent frustration from leading to positions far from what democracy is.

It’s a current debate. There is a lot of literature that analyses what is happening about this discathing with democracy, that dissenchment of the population. And there is so in Europe as well as in the United States, left-wing and right-wing. We have made a selection of five books whose authors have sought to interpret why and find solutions.

  • SlavojZizek: “Problems in Paradise”

Zizek mentions Fukuyama indirectly in the subtitle itself… and in fact, among other things, he questions the American’s thesis.

For Zizek there is no “capitalist civilization” and therefore that system can operate in different forms in other civilizing contexts. The market economy can function in many areas as it is a way of organizing the economy. This will be able to coexist with the Chinese authoritarian model or that of the European welfare state.

In the book, Zizek tries to explain through common links the different revolts that are happening on the planet, including Arab springs, which he sees as the result of the contradictions inherent in capitalism itself.

Zizek introduces a novel element in the Marxist consideration of “the unemployed as a reserve labor army”. For him it would be necessary to include all those located outside the system itself, whether they are zones or entire countries. Being exploited is a way of existing. Its denial, its location outside the system, is also exploitation. Zizek believes that capitalism introduces a new and radical class division: a planetary divide that separates those who are protected and those who are left out of protection. The conflict would remain of classes however for Zizek it is necessary to expand the concept to include all the exploited. This set should include those who do not even have the option to be exploited.

Zizek does not accept the blackmail of the traditional left that says it is the only way to stop on the right. He denies that right and that denial does not come more right and if a left more leftist than the official left.

He argues that only from communism, paradoxes of the situation, can the causes of the negative outcome of globalization be understood. It also raises an iconoclastic idea that the financial system should be reformulated and speaks of a kind of “socialization of banks”. And there is still a new proposal, relating to the seemingly leftist idea of THE BASIC RENTA, which, again a paradox regarding the classic proposal of the left of payment mechanism to reduce the suffering of unemployment, is valued as an acceptance that productivity derives from a collective intelligence and that is why wealth is generated.

Zizek appreciates that there is a trend of decline in democracy driven in turn by the end of the element of containment that was represented by the so-called communist bloc. Its disappearance meant the erosion of the welfare state. In the EU we are witnessing the fact.

It continues to include ideas in its analysis of the growing indebtedness of countries and people. It sees the current indebtedness as a mechanism of control, of domination. It is not expected to be returned because its existence is precisely the source of power for those who manage it.

Zizek, concerned about the divorce between democracy and capitalism, goes on to analyze the different protests that have arisen in different areas of the planet. He believes that all protests have a common element. It proposes that only a democracy that goes beyond politics and deepens economic and social life can overcome divorce. It makes clear in its analysis that state socialism is not the solution to the problem that capitalism generates in that it remains a replacement of forms of domination.

With all the elements mentioned Zizek analyses the Arab springs, both Egypt and Turkey, the phenomenon of the indignants or the clashes on Russia’s borders, with Ukraine as a highlight. He sees in those movements as an appeal for someone, “OTHER,” who would be seen as the decision maker, to act. And there’s no other. Zizek only sees it possible to change things with each citizen’s own activity

The Ukrainian case allows him to introduce the idea that ethnic and religious passions parallel to a reversal of the values of illustration. See these emotional impulses as an example of a Dark Ages looming. Zizek is surprised by the enormous shame with which these old passions have appeared.

In his continuous reflections on the left he makes a special mention of Piketty. He accepts his view that the capitalist’s internal logic tends to increase inequality and thus to a weakening of democracy.  Both agree that the historically tested alternatives to capitalism did not work and therefore conclude that there is no alternative. Only a global power to contain the drifts that larn democracy. This power should enable capitalism’s wealth-generating capabilities to be harnessed with adequate redistribution that kept inequality under control and thereby safeguard democracy. Again, both agree that such power is unimaginable on the limits of today’s global capitalism.

From this pessimistic vision of a solution based on that Global Power introduces the need to ACT, understood this as opposed to pseudo-activity, which is related to participation, mask that hides that finally nothing happens. Zizek believes that the performance of the “self-managed crowds” from which revolutionary momentum must emerge is necessary. And all this considering that the conditions for action are never perfect, that it was always something too early and yet we should start somewhere with a concrete intervention and always analyzing the future complications that may arise from those actions.

He considers it necessary for a strong leader, called him “New Master,” to be essential. Its function is liberating, it must overcome the “MUST!” and replace it with a “You Can!” and that “you can” refers to thinking beyond capitalism and liberal democracy as the definitive framework. Zizek discusses revolutionary experiences and their component of violence. It establishes a comparison between the violence of the SYSTEM that allows its continuity and the revolutionary of those who seek to transform it. Although Zizek clarifies that he should not go any further with violence, that the important thing is to change the framework. Zizek relocates the conceptual space relating to violence by considering what is regarded as normal, almost natural, as is a crisis of an economic nature, which has an important capacity for devastation, and yet we should regard it as a type of violence.

  • Steven Levitskyy Daniel Diblatt: “How Democracies Die”

The authors note in this essay the value of American democracy. Its system of balance and separation of powers forms a system of counterweights that has overcome a multitude of crises. The US Constitution has demonstrated its strength by overcoming the Civil War, the Great Depression… 

Levitsky and Ziblatt warn in this work that democracy can be gradually eroded, almost imperceptibly. They consider that the institutions are not enough to stop elected autocrats. Any constitutional system requires unwritten rules to act as a complement. That’s what they see in America. that between rival parties there is THE MUTUA TOLERANCE, the consideration of LEGITIMOS PARTIES and CONTENTion are key to the support of the democratic system.

They value it as very important that it was necessary to wait until 1965 for democracy to be full when the civil rights of the African-American population were recognized. The authors highlight the conversion of the American Parties as parties designed for specific identity groups. Thus, the Republican Party is the majority party of white citizens and the Democratic Party is that of identity groups and ethnic minorities.

Levitsky and Ziblatt emphasize that equality, civics and freedom are the keys that guarantee the survival of democracy. From this perspective, the partisan control of institutions that should act on counterweights, and the progressive radicalisation of political discourse in Western Europe and, specifically among us, are warning signs of the weakening of our democracy.

  • T. Todorov: “The Intimate Enemies of Democracy”

Why is there unrest in democracy? Todorov observes that there is unease in our democratic societies. His thesis, an in-depth analysis of the enemies of democracy, part of the idea that once defeated fascism and communist totalitarianism, it is impossible to resurface the totalitarian threat from outside democratic societies, even though the word freedom has become the trade name of nationalist, xenophobic and far-right parties.

He does not see fundamentalist Islamism as the NEW enemy of democracies, but points out that in our societies the extreme reactions to Islamist attacks have changed sensitivity to events such as torture, mass destruction of populations, discrimination against minorities and the limitation of civil liberties. It sees precisely that within democracies there have been very difficult enemies to combat because, as a seemingly vindicative internal forces of democracy, they seem legitimate.

For Todorov, democracy is defined not only by how power is constituted, but also by how it is exercised. So while the essential is the principle of popular sovereignty, so is the principle of respect that power owes to the individual in his individual sphere. Although every system is improveable, it is precisely the balance between progress, freedom and people that must be monitored because from each of these three factors arise internal enemies: populism, ultraliberalism and messianism.

Messianism, based on the reason that human reason can transform the world into a direction of justice. There is a similar trend in disparate elements such as Napoleon, Saint Simon, Marx… to offer the world freedom and justice whether they want it or not. Although totalitarian messianisms have been overcome, we note that our democracies are now seeking to impose democracy with bombs. This is the case with NATO’s intervention in Kosovo that seeks to ensure its independence from Serbia.  The prevailing idea was that america. had a duty to graft in other countries for the greater purpose of democracy and THE FREE COMPANY. A doctrine that initially sought to build a fairer international order and ultimately turned out to be the imposition of America’s will. to the rest of the world. For Todorov, media violence disables any nobility of the purposes. The end result is an obvious deterioration of democratic postulates in that it is intended to justify the right to attack other countries, to torture and to detain without prosecution.

Ultraliberalism. If liberalism is the movement that guarantees individual freedom from the power of the state, the basic principle of the French Revolution, it can be observed that after communism there was substantial change from the contributions of Von Mises, Hayek, Ayn Rand… that mark a very different vision that I end up in ultraliberalism, with the pre-phase of neoliberalism. Todorov sees it as a sign of his perversion in the result achieved. Now the benefits remain individual but the risks are socialized. For Todorov, who considers humanism a key element of European thought, equality and fraternity are just as important as freedom. The limitations that the law introduces is what allows us to reflect the will of the people. Todorov sees limits on individual freedom. The democratic principle requires limiting the power, not only of the state, but also that of individuals if they are so powerful that they are a threat to the freedom of others.

Populism. If popular sovereignty is the basic principle of democracy, it can also become a threat when populist discourse arises, understanding that it acts on the emotion of the moment, without even considering present and future. Todorov thinks that all populism has an axis around the rejection of multiculturalism, even if this phenomenon is not unique to populism. It considered that this debate about multiculturalism, as well as that of national identity, is used as a way of diverting the focus on real problems that are difficult to solve. The human need to be part of a group makes Europeans feel their traditional identity in jeopardy in the face of the advancement of globalization and individualism. Rejection of immigrants and xenophobia are the central elements of populism.

  • Marlene Wind: “The Tribalization of Europe”

Wind believes that the most relevant current trends are anti-globalism and identity politics. This is visible in six European countries that depart from liberal democracy and take populist approaches. The author believes that in populism the rule of the majority is applied unrestricted in the midst of a debate of “fake news” and a cultural fundamentalism. The consequence of these trends is the crisis and questioning of the European project, despite being the most innovative and successful that has developed on the continent. 

Identity issues are the source of the decline in democracy and the EU crisis. Wind considers that the consideration of identity communities as natural phenomena is itself a fallacy in that communities have always been imaginary, invented things. Identity, religious or national policies lay their foundations and foundations beyond rational analysis and therefore outside the political debate. All this aggravated by the effectiveness of power by using social engineering to create and build identity communities.

Wind analyses the Procés in Catalonia, Scotland’s secession referendum and Brexit and concludes that there are strong similarities and that they are based on an exacerbation of differences. The us against the others, pretending to solve everything with a binary yes or no to a few misresolved questions.

The sign of a disenseance with democracy can be measured in the decline in voter turnout. The fact that The Economist reflects in its publication the decline in democratic quality in a majority of countries, six in Europe, is a sign of the problem.  The fact that the trump cabinet’s aggressiveness and the policies of China and Russia are added to the global level, and the policies of China and Russia, can be inferred that no further interrelationship is being made and if towards a globalization that accentuates contradictions, inequality and conflict.

Wind recalls that in democracy the essential is not only voting, and that it is not possible to forget the mechanisms that protect minorities and ensure the rule of law. Judges are the guardians of freedom and are a counter-majority mechanism because it limits the imposition of the majority on the minority without limitations. This judicial review, constitutionally carried out to parliamentary activity, is at risk in cases such as Hungary and Poland.

  • Joseph Stiglitz: “The Unrest in Globalization”

Stiglitz believes that Globalization doesn’t work. It has not worked for many of the poor, it has not worked for the environment and it has not worked for economic stability.

The author sees it necessary to reconcile the market with the regulatory role of the state and the redefinition of institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. It considers that regardless of the state of political and economic development of the countries, it is the governments that make the differences. Its own summary: the fundamental change required for globalization to work as it should, must occur in governance. This view would mean the waiver of the U.S. veto right at the IMF and that voting rights in the above-mentioned institutions are distributed fairly. Stiglitz does not intend to stop globalization, which it considers inevitable, and if the way we govern it, in how we manage it.

Proposals to reform the International Financial System that require overcoming market fundamentalism:

  1. Recognition of the dangers associated with excessive liberalization of capital markets and especially short-term capital movements.
  2. Reform the system of moratorium and bankruptcy of debtor states.
  3. Avoid big rescues.
  4. Homogenize international banking control.
  5. Better risk management.
  6. Improve social safety nets.
  7. The response to the crisis is not a policy of spending contraction but, in general, an expansive policy.

The author says that if globalIZATION does not solve problems, it will not promote development and generate poverty and instability, and globalization will be severely answered.

The book, published in 2002, was revised after 2008 to find that the global economic standards that emerged in developed countries severely harmed the middle and lower classes, benefiting the financial and business interests of those countries. It was a consequence of broader markets and lower costs with the result of more profits. That is why it considers that international legality and global regulatory bodies that provide valid rules and denounce the mismanagement of globalization that has had undesirable elements in the market itself is necessary. Stiglizt points out that five American companies dominate the digital sector market in the world, except in China. In some areas a single company dominates the market, i.e. there is no efficient market precisely because it is uncompetitive.

Washington’s consensus was answered, in the wake of the 2008 crisis, by the Stockholm consensus, so that privatization, deregulation, liberalization and inflation control should be replaced by inclusive development, limit inequality, facilitate environmental development and strike a balance between society, the state and the market.

Although there have been positive elements in globalization such as that of the most intense and rapid economic growth in history, which the author considers the result of acceptance of the LEGALITY PRINCIPLE, it cannot be separated from the huge increase in inequality and the weakening of many communities. In fact, it has concentrated wealth and increased inequality at a rate higher than economic growth itself. 

A globalization regulated by a change in global governance would have made the 2008 crisis very difficult because the financial excesses of a deregulated market would not have occurred. Control elements established after World War II, BM, IMF… are not enough. The G7 has had to be supplemented with the G20. In this scenario Stiglitz raises three possibilities:

1 remain unchanged and conclude that such globalization is not sustainable.

2 return to old protectionism, the apparent ease of returning to the known

3 better manage negative situations and rewrite the rules to make them fairer.

The middle and working classes are the new discontents in the face of globalization. It is these sectors that support Trump, Johnson, Bolsonaro… Its origin has been the malfunction of the system and the deregulation of financial markets. It is that short-termism that only values the immediate and does not enter into indirect or long-term effects. It also influences the increase in options for tax evasion, which has turned Nevada, London, Ireland…. in areas that offer similar opportunities to a tax haven. A third element is how intellectual property is regulated. It is questionable whether that property should be maintained that time or a social function must be recognized and passed to the scientific community with rights protection to the creator of the new technology.

The author states that governance is the cause of the malfunction of globalization. The great interdependence between countries has not generated a world government that guarantees justice and effectiveness. It proposes measures for inclusive globalization:

  1. Globalization is a means of raising the standard of living of people around the world.
  2. Global rules are needed when there are cross-border externalities.
  3. Only on a global scale are the problems of safety, health, environment…
  5. Market fundamentalism leads to deregulation and crisis. This market needs regulation.
  6. Large economies are different from small ones.
  7. The standards for developed countries cannot be the same as for developed ones.
  8. Changes produce losers. Some people need help overcoming choc.
  9. Globalization affects society and its culture, as well as the economy, and the choices for the culture itself must be respected.
  10. It is questionable that the market is always competitive, as seen with the giants that control economic sectors.
  11. All these proposals require effective governance because the economy and politics are not separable.

The 21st century can be the century of cities and effective municipal governance. The need is evident and the tendencies towards it are very strong, but the future can twist and return to conflict because of inequality, populism or nationalism.

3.- The city as a space of freedom.

The previous paragraph aims to set the framework for the debate on the political-social and economic organization of today’s world. It aims to be a look at the environment, the challenges we face and the tools we can count on to build acceptable solutions.

We must now turn our gaze to the city and to the definition of conditions that allow us to maintain its character as SPACE FOR FREEDOM. To do this we will rely on the work of R. Sennet “Build and inhabit. Ethics for the city.”

We intend to treat this author from an perspective that mixes the very civilisational fact of what is a metropolis, human builder par excellence, with the consequences regarding what is this disaffection for democracy that we have seen embodied in the preceding section. That is, Sennet makes an assessment of what the city implies regarding democratic postulates and values.

Sennet’s work raises the distinction between the CITY understood as a physical reality (Ville) and as the sum of perceptions, behaviors and beliefs of its inhabitants (Cité).  This dichotomy forces the main question that the author raises in the pages of his book: Who does to whom? At different points it tries to raise answers.

In a world that rapidly concentrates its population in cities and sees the size and density of these cities grow exponentially, the key question is whether man makes the city tailored to his needs and desires or the city (urbanized space) modulates man’s consciousness and behavior. What moves the urban planner? Or, to go further, what should I move?

Sennet in “Build and Live” treats the great urban innovators, with a special accent in Cerda and Haussmann. Two examples of how the city can affect human behaviors.  Changing the structure could lead to more rational health practices, something that has been proven true.

The city that Cerdá designed, was intended to make the grid a space of sociability and equality and Sennet does not appreciate it positively in that he sees it as an urban monoculture and with that uniformity can get sick. Sennet sees the city as a space of freedom, which was reborn with that function in the Middle Ages and therefore must be OPEN and that is because it is PLURAL, however it concludes that to be open it must be multiform, by aggregation of heterogeneous spaces.

Sennet, a supporter of “opening the city,” theorizes about the key to the vault of urban design: the creation of places with a particular character. It is this idea that motivates the rejection of interchangeable uniformity in cities. Therefore, in its critique of Cerda’s grid model, it proposes the solution of a “supermanzana” that eliminates, reduces, traffic and channels it through its perimeters. These “superislas” would allow new green areas and offer spaces to the citizen.

The city is a FREEDOM SPACE.

This idea of the city as a space of freedom, relying on theorists like Weber, defends a conception in which rights and powers have a local base, which approaches the city-state, an idea that is not consolidated. Urban planners focused on indifference and insolidarity as a feature of the current city. Citizens are alien to each other and to the environment. Sennet considers that this trend, crystallized in 1933, reaffirmed the distances between “ville and cite”.

The author discusses the work of Jane Jacobs (Death and Life of Big Cities) and her conviction about the basic character of the BARRIO and the door it represents to develop direct democracy. The city cannot be planned in a way that prescribes how its inhabitants should live, work, circulate and have fun. Its consequence is a city that is not alive. Study the contrast he observes between Jacobs’ thinking and Lewis Mumford’s creator of the concept of “sustainable city.”

Munford appreciates that there are problems and challenges that cannot be solved from perspectives and approaches focused on small community actions. Only the Ville can face ecological or technological challenges. Sennet, aware of the city’s growing technification, believes it can lead to prescriptive or alternatively inclusive smart cities. The first imposes criteria and modes of conduct and the second, which it values as preferable, generates interactive departmental processes.

What is the path of contemporary urbanism?. The author states that in the city the urbanite has become “indifferent to indifference”. Sociology has long since discovered that the city makes us “indifferent” to others. There is no urban community, there are partial “identities” that do not lead to fraternity. Sennett argues that a cooperative smart city is more open than the prescriptive smart city even if it does not help to arouse “sympathy for others.” 

It seems inevitable to refer your thoughts to our space and our time, to this Barcelona which must face inevitable challenges such as climate change and the energy transition or the revolution of collective and private transport; but also face other challenges arising from a governance deficit. A deficit manifested by the excessive will to ban, suppress, order and drive the city without looking to the future. Our managers do not act with “modesty” as Sennett recommends, they impose patterns of conduct as if they were the feudal lords of their time.

Cerdá thought its Barcelona model intuiting urban growth and car development. We need rulers who know how to prepare Barcelona for the mobility of the future, to see it as a polycentric and interconnected metropolis and, above all, not to slow it down in the name of progress.

It is necessary to remember the existing dynamics in the world of global cities. Among these cities there is a very strong physical connection, with the consequences of having needs that may become similar and which as a corollary are increasingly separated from the states to which they belong.

4.- Conclusions

There is a coincidental set of conclusions from the authors cited, a link that binds them together. All of them show the contrast in the sentiment produced by the sinking of the Berlin Wall and the bloc that underpinned it, translated in the book THE END OF FRANCIS Fukuyama’s STORY, in which THE DEMOCRACIA, the free MARKET, LIBERALISM triumphed, with regard to what is now noticeable, THE DEMOCRACY does not work.

These authors explain this for the effects of GLOBALIZATION, because this globalization has produced a growth in inequality. People distrust democracy because they have let them down. And that means low voter turnout and disinterest in politics.

They emphasize that the current policy translates into a rise of the IDENTITARIOS movements: feminism, LGTBI, minority ethnic groups… They are not considered as a global alternative, although they have an ability to undermine the democratic system. Its consequences are:

1) political is made with regard to these identity groups, whether women, Hispanics, homosexuals, Africans

2) the identity of being between social groups to being between territories, something that explains the rise of nationalisms.

This world of group and territorial identities threatens to destroy the concept of “citizen” that emerged from the French Revolution, heir in turn to the Enlightenment.

From certain left-wing intellectuals, such as Felix Ovejero (“Reactionary Drift of the Left”), it is considered that the 68 a paradigm shift occurred on the left, placing the center of gravity of his discourse in difference rather than equality. The freedom, equality and fraternity of the enlightened ideal passes to other traits that would allow the individual to integrate: religion, sexual orientation, gender… The difference is what is underlined, equality is no longer a goal. A position coincident with the sociologist R.Ingleart, who considers that he has gone from materialism of the 60s and 70s, with a concern for material well-being, to post-materialism, regarding minorities, the environment, which today became self-expression values. In conclusion: the material is resolved, the debate becomes about identity. The general situation is surprising because this new role of today’s left brings you closer to positions that were typical of the reaction to the French Revolution and its Universal Declaration of Rights. 

Ideological positions impossible to contact. The left moves on to empathize with nationalist identity, rather than seeking universal, religious citizenship, rather than seeking secularism. It is the substitution of the ideal illustrated by the romantic, who accepts politics founded on feelings.

We can highlight in the book by Levitsky and Ziblatt that it is easy to appreciate that, despite the structural and conjunctural differences with the model they studied, USA, it is possible to see parallels with what is happening in the EU and even refine the magnifying glass and introduce the political situation of Catalonia and the rest of Spain. It is easy to see how this basic substrate not contained in the normative framework of laws that allows a democracy to be stable, the “MUTUA TOLERANCE” between political actors and even among citizens of different ideas is being removed. There is no longer “containment”, either among the elected or among the other citizens.

The economic crisis is one of the factors influencing job insecurity and rising inequality with the corollary of resentment and subsequent polarization. When the economic stability of the population is replaced by insecurity, it is when the door is opened to the internal enemies of Democracy.

It is in this drift that the GLOBAL CITY has a new role to claim. A role that prevents that escape to the position of population division into hundreds of identity-based groups, which has, among other consequences, that of hindering connection strategies.

The Metropolis, the space where citizens work and live, which can be in different municipal areas but in turn integrated into the Metropolitan reality, is the place with which everyone feels identified, because their capacity to create wealth is intense enough to eliminate the difference based on ethnic identity, gender, religion, etc…

The Metropolis can mean the deMOS and LIMES area that allows to achieve a higher democratic quality, that brings representatives and representatives closer together.

It is from the Global Metropolis that it is still possible to launch new governance proposals that will overcome the current identity drifts that are underhing democracy and compromise our future.

III.- The Metropolitan Barcelona

1.- What is today the Metropolitan Barcelona.

What do we know about her? How does it affect us? Does it benefit us?

This entity is much closer to us and our day-to-day aware, it also benefits us and could still do much more.

To put us to say that the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona covers 36 municipalities, 636 km2, 3.2 million inhabitants and represents more than 50% of the GDP of Catalonia, in addition to managing the third public budget of Catalonia, after the Generalitat and the City of Barcelona, and being one of the largest investors in public works. It is an urban continuum with very few examples in southern Europe, one of its main urban areas and one of the great economic engines of the south of the continent.

The municipalities that make up it have many links to each other but do not constitute a homogeneous or social territory, neither economically, nor culturally, nor politically, but rather diverse. However, as a whole, it has the elements to play in the league of the big cities, where it must be, depending on its limitation in its own ambition, that is, wherever its citizens want to place it. It is therefore a diverse territory, full of inequalities but with enormous potential, which requires coordinated policies to be able to compete on an equal footing with other large urban concentrations that have already opted to make that leap. 

To do this requires a political personality and the construction of a true common identity complementary to local identities, which is much more necessary than we want to recognize, constituting the entity of the AMB only the prelude to what it must or can become. The idea should be to integrate rather than exclude and collaborate rather than compete.

2.- The legal framework.

The creation of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona, through Law 31/2010, of August 3 of the Parliament of Catalonia, implies nothing more than the continuation or rather, recovery, of a historical ede that had already begun to walk and develop, but which was annulled by political motivations afraid that it would take away their powers. Its predecessor was the Metropolitan Corporation of Barcelona created in 1974 and which allowed the elaboration of the Metropolitan General Plan in 1976 and the Metropolitan Sanitation Plan. 

Thus it implies the restitution of an entity that had already existed and that has come to stay, since today the big cities cannot be understood or managed but from their globality, since the rest of the municipalities are not only not alien to what happens in the big city, but must also be protagonists and benefit from a common metropolitan management. It is, as the preamble to Law 31/2010 says, to ensure the right and effective capacity of municipalities to manage public affairs affecting their citizens.

Art. 93 of the Statue of Catalonia already states that “the supramunicipal authorities are based on the desire for collaboration and association of municipalities and the recognition of metropolitan areas”. And the law arises precisely to regulate and develop this collaboration between municipalities, with the desire to improve the efficiency of the operating administrations in the metropolitan territory. The basis for the creation of a metropolitan area lies in the economic and social links between municipalities that require joint planning and coordination of services and works. That is, they have their foundation more on a functional objective of effectiveness than in the existing administrative reality. It is for this reason that its effectiveness, efficiency, decentralization and proximity to the citizen must guide their reason for being.

However, the WBA does not have a genuine metropolitan government, lacks exclusive competence, suffers from the lack of independent funding and suffers from weak democratic legitimacy, without being a direct election administration. While these aspects highlight their weaknesses, their powers show that they affect us positively in our day-to-day life and are not alien to us at all, which is why it is necessary to analyze this entity to highlight its strengths, but also its weaknesses and to see how to overcome them so that it actually brings benefits and does not constitute a further entity to sustain.

3.- Structure and content of the law

Law 31/2010 establishing the WBA contains 48 articles that are structured in a preliminary title, followed by 6 titles, 11 additional provisions, 5 transitional and 2 final. It is therefore not an extensive law, it is un ambitious, but it does not cease to constitute the recovery of the metropolitan entity and therefore the germ of everything that can become.

Its purpose is its creation and regulate its organization, its competences and its financing. It is a local supramunicipal entity of a territorial nature with its own legal personality, formed by municipalities of the metropolitan area to which you can add all those who wish, that have territorial continuity with the rest and by law of the Parliament of Catalonia, which leaves in the hands of another administration its possible extension.

Title I regulates your organization which consists of the following bodies:

  • Metropolitan Council: constituted by all the mayors and councillors of the municipalities of the member municipalities, according to a proportional number according to the number of inhabitants, except in the case of Barcelona that has 25 members.
  • Council of Mayors: its existence is not mandatory but can be created to submit proposals for action to the Metropolitan Council.
  • Metropolitan Council Committees: to prepare previous reports or to study specific issues to be approved by the Metropolitan Council.
  • President and Vice-Presidents: he is elected among the mayors of the Metropolitan Council, which in turn is composed of a majority of members of the City council of Barcelona, so in practice, although the law does not say so expressly, it is always the mayor / sa of Barcelona.
  • Special Committee of Auditors: to examine and examine the accounts and budget of the entity, but whose powers nevertheless the Court of Auditors or the Syndicate.

Title II merely lists the great metropolitan powers, without detailing too much how they are exercised, so it seems here that the law itself is presented as a proposal for possibilities that can be deployed, without constituting a closed list and allowing the very implementation needs of these powers to decide their specific regulation.

The current powers granted by the law are limited but very noteworthy and current. They are articulated around the following large areas:

  • Territory, urban planning and housing.
  • Transport and mobility.
  • Infrastructures, hydraulic services and waste treatment.
  • Environmental and renewable energy policy.
  • Economic and social development.
  • Social and territorial cohesion.

The law does not develop them in detail or establish any specific procedures for the deployment of them, although these are areas of vital importance for creating a metropolitan identity and to enable inter-municipal solidarity to be implemented.

Title III is the one that regulates the great competence of the law: land planning, urban planning and housing, dedicating the whole title. 

The territory is the space where a whole series of functional relationships, urban concurrence, services and common supplies are articulated. Therefore, the WBA should be an effective tool in the service of efficiency in the management and well-being of the citizens who make it up.

Urban planning is perhaps the best example that gives life to the metropolitan department. The land susceptible to new developments is scarce and growth must be analyzed from the whole of the metropolitan area, an idea with which the current Metropolitan General Plan of 1976 was created. There is no point in making it municipality to municipality. The city of Barcelona lacks urbanizable land, although the demand for housing, services, offices, hotels,… it doesn’t stop increasing. This involves focusing on urban transformation together, taking into account transport, mobility and infrastructure needs in a way that meets and benefits all metropolitan municipalities.

The need for affordable housing is undoubtedly one of the most relevant current problems, not only in the city of Barcelona but in practically all municipalities, and its implementation requires in turn the provision of other services such as transport and certain equipment. This necessarily implies comprehensive planning and management of the whole with common policies. For social housing policy to be effective and effective, all municipalities must be taken into account, as some have land availability and others lack it, and the resources available to each of the municipalities do not always match those that need them most.

The following is the procedure for drawing up the various plans:

Urban Development Master Plan (PDU): it should establish the structuring elements of urban planning, based on sustainable development. It is therefore the framework document that will define the metropolitan strategy at the territory level, so that the different plans are then developed on the basis of it and common guidelines and objectives. In addition to defining its content, the law establishes its approval process, which is ultimately the final approval, depends on the Generalitat de Catalunya.

The current Metropolitan General Plan, which dates back to 1976, is clearly surpassed and is still pending its revision and update on behalf of the WBA creation law. The fledgling PDU is the first milestone at work and which must aspire to be much more than an urban plan to take into account metropolitan reality as a whole in aspects not only urbanistic and architectural, but also demographic, economic, social, environmental, housing,… that is, to form the basis on which to articulate and bring together the needs of citizens as a whole and how to offer them solutions. It should propose urban solutions to metropolitan challenges such as housing, land or economic activity policies to be specified in specific urban planning plans. From it, all urban planning, both general and derived, must be carried out by the mandate of the law. 

The initial approval of the PDU is planned for December of this year and from there begins the whole process of approvals and citizen participation that must culminate with the final approval by the Generalitat de Catalunya. One wonders whether it makes sense that a document that establishes the needs of the municipalities of the Metropolitan Area and how to give them a solution has to be approved by the Generalitat.

In turn, it relates to the Metropolitan Urban Mobility Plan, already in process, a matter of vital importance in the elaboration of cohesive and coherent urban proposals and among all municipalities, because we cannot talk about a network of cities without a transport that unites them. This mobility plan proposes measures that necessarily involve collaboration between the different municipalities and other administrations with competences in this area, which in turn are the ones that contribute most of the budget, which will condition its implementation.

From the global analysis of the metropolitan reality made by the PDU, the new General Plan of Metropolitan Urban Planning will be developed that will concrete the urban aspects, based on knowledge of the citizen needs.

  • Metropolitan Urban Planning Plan (POUM): a multi-municipal instrument that deploys the determinations of the PDU at the detail level of each municipality. It will be carried out by updating the current 1976 PGM and other general planning instruments. Its processing and approval depends on the WBA itself, the municipalities concerned in each case and the WBA Urban Planning Commission.
  • Municipal Urban Action Programs (PAUM): which develop municipalities according to their own land and housing policies, based on the urban planning law and in coherence with territorial plans and senior directors. Its approval therefore depends on the municipalities themselves, unless they have multidisciplinary incidents in which case they will pass through the AMB and its Urban Planning Commission.

Urban Planning Commission. Although the law presents it as if it were some more instrument, it is actually a proper body that could have been regulated in Title I.  It is a body that depends on the Generalitat de Catalunya, which is the presidency of the generalitat, and its vice-presidency in the president of the WBA. It has 10 members appointed by the Generalitat and 10 appointed by the president of AMB, in addition to a representative of the State Administration, with a voice but without a vote. It has competences in the final approval of general planning (POUM), municipal programs and derivative planning (partial plans and urban improvement plans) in certain cases, among others. In turn, the law gives you subjective criteria for modifying plans provisionally approved by the AMB.

Title IV deals with the relations between the municipalities and the WBA, based on the form of participation of the former in the entity.

Title V regulates the form of financing of the WBA, which is based on the allocation from certain taxes, fees, public prices, urban quotas, subsidies, etc. and contributions from the municipalities that make up it. In other words, the WBA lacks budgetary autonomy, has a high level of dependence on transfers from other public administrations.

Title VI states that persons working in the WBA are career civil servants, interim, labour and eventual staff, within the regime of catalan civil service law and local state legislation for secretary, intervention and treasury.

However, it is noteworthy that the management staff is appointed by the Metropolitan Council, so, as we have already discussed, it will depend on the mayors and governors of the municipalities.

Of the provisions of the law, highlight the additional 9th concerning the Constitution of the AMB Urban Planning Commission:

It is constituted at the time of the entry into force of the PDU, that is, it does not yet exist and therefore we must go to the Transitional Provision 1a which indicates that until then, the powers assigned to it by the law will be exercised by the corresponding Territorial Commissions of Urban Planning or by whoever designates the Generalitat de Catalunya, with the exception of the Subcommittee of Urbanism of Barcelona that has them previously assigned under the Charter of Barcelona of Law 22/1998.

Also highlight the Final Provision 1a on the creation of the Territorial Commission of Urban planning of the metropolitan area of Barcelona, which the law obliges the government to create it in 6 months from its entry into force, and which assumes the corresponding powers, except in the case of the municipality of Barcelona. It shall be chaired by the person appointed by the Generalitat and composed of 10 members appointed by the Generalitat, 10 by the President of the WBA and a representative of the State Administration, with a voice but without a vote.

3.- Critical considerations.

Having analysed the law, we can see a competing ambition that cannot be implemented in practice because it lacks budgetary autonomy to carry it out and independent political power, since ultimately the one who holds this power is the Generalitat de Catalunya and to a lesser extent the City council of Barcelona. Added to this is the different visions of the metropolitan event that can occur when different parties govern in both institutions. In fact we have already seen what happened with its predecessor, the Metropolitan Corporation, and therefore we must avoid repeating history.

The law is 2010 and its first mandate is the development of the PDU which, 9 years later, is only in the process of advancing and pending initial approval at the end of 2019. We must therefore consider why the delay in the deployment of its effects is due. This illustrates a clear example of the limitations that the law imposes.

Another point to underline is that, of all its competences, only urban planning is the one that is most developed in its articulation, although not yet in reality, and the rest, not least, must also be the subject of further development depending on the needs that the implementation of them requires.

We also consider that this is an unreaselable law as a taxable person receiving competences, not having the active capacity to propose to exercise new ones, being only recipient of the powers that this law, or others and the municipalities themselves wish to delegate. It is the municipalities that must implement it with the transfer of competences that they consider for better management and coordination from the metropolitan level. Any delegation of competence implicitly carries a political will to lose some power and political partisanship should be set aside if the real goal is to make Barcelona and its metropolitan area a global player in the world of big cities.

Therefore, one of the ways to promote the WBA is to give it more skills to make it useful from a functional point of view. Show its usefulness through the facts and above all from a social point of view. Demonstrate that only with its competing policies can we respond to common problems (housing, transport, water, energy,…) and achieve social cohesion between the municipalities that make up it. 

During the last campaign for municipal elections, all the mayors for the Barcelona City Council highlighted the need and importance of the Metropolitan Barcelona, stands as great drivers of it. A few months have passed now, nothing has been mentioned about it. It follows that the idea sells, it is fine, but when implementing it, it lacks political will to delegate power to a higher body.

The form of election of the President of the entity and the broad functions and discretion that the law grants him, together with the indirect election of the governing bodies, ultimately makes the WBA a very personalistic institution dependent on the political will of its President, who in practice has always been the mayor/sa of Barcelona City Council.

We therefore understand that the institution needs to rethink its governance system in such a way as to maintain the active presence of all metropolitan mayors, increasing the powers and weight of the Council of Mayors; introducing direct election procedures of all or part of the members of the Metropolitan Council in a way that increases the democratic legitimacy of the WBA.

Another alternative studied by those who are interested in metropolitan governance is to raise the direct election of its President, giving this presidency a stronger democratic legitimacy and a greater political weight. For this to work, it would be desirable for it to be an independent manager of political interests, because otherwise we would be creating one more administration, when the objective must be above partisan interests. While this is not possible under the current law, and it is necessary to change it and still aware of the political difficulty that this entails, we should not therefore renounce it as a medium-term objective.

4.- Conclusion

The political corset that encompasses the entity limits its own capacity for action. In short, if we want to talk about a true metropolis or global city that takes on the role that it deserves worldwide and becomes a reference for the future, we, its citizens, civil society, who assume this leadership and give the definitive push for the take-off of Greater Barcelona.

The recovery of the metropolitan institution and the many actions that are being carried out from it. While it is a very good start, the law that brings the WBA to life is un ambitious and too dependent on political initiative. It must aspire to much more to place Barcelona as a whole among the major metropolises and be the focus of business, scientific, environment, technological initiatives,… but in a way that all of this reverts, above all, to the benefit of its citizens.



1.- The territory of Royal Barcelona

There is a Great Barcelona, as there is the Grand Paris or the Great London. We experience it every time we go shopping in that city to go to the Roca del Vallés, every time we bathe on its beaches of Gava or Sitges, we visit some friends in El Maresme, or a cava in Vilafranca del Penedés, or we catch a plane in el Prat. Its existence is an indisputable fact even if we have not yet been able to precisely delimit it.

The most formal attempt at definition is contained in the Law of 27-7-2010 and in its definition of the seven Veguerías or Regions in which it intends to divide Catalonia, at least for the purpose of the General Territorial Pla of Catalonia (P.T.G.C). Greater Barcelona would correspond here to the so-called Regió I and would be made up of 164 municipalities belonging to seven counties: Alt Penedés, Baix Llobregat, Barcelonés, Garraf, Maresme, Valles Occidental i Valls Oriental.

However, the division of Catalonia into veguerías/regions is an idea that overlaps with a plural and changing reality. A few months after this territorial delimitation was approved, the Regio I was deprived of the AltPenedes and the Garraf, which became a separate area of functional action that in 2017 would become an eighth region of Catalonia. All these changes were little more than drawing lines on the map without changing the institutional reality and even less social or economic reality.

What are the limits of real Barcelona depends on what vision you have on the matter, as Mariona Tomás explains in her work “Governing the Royal Barcelona”: 

From this debate, and in relation to the models of metropolitan governance in Barcelona, what we are interested in highlighting is the existence of two visions of the metropolitan territory, especially from the perspective of urban and territorial planning. Indeed, in the debate on proposals of the territorial organization in Catalonia there has been a tension between a broader conception of the metropolitan phenomenon (corresponding to the Regió I or the metropolitan vegueria) and a smaller vision (focused on the first metropolitan criterion).”

The truth is that Barcelona Gran has always had a variable geography depending on the services to be provided. Thus, the authority of the TransportMetropolita operates over the seven counties that initially formed the Regió I together with the Anoia, the Solsons and the Jungle.

On the other hand, Aigs Ter Llobregat (ATLL) also acts on the basis of the seven regions attached to Regió I or those it adds up, as in the previous case of Anoia; but also Bages, Bergued, and Osona, but not the Jungle or the Solsons.

To a diffuse territorial base, there is a certain indefinition with respect to the services that should be provided with a territorial extension greater than that of the first crown.

Those who have approached the state of this matter (M. Tomas, O. Nel.lo) conclude that certain infrastructure policies, economic momentum and above all redistributive policy, only make sense when defined and executed on this territorial scale.

However, the common view is that horizontal (between municipalities) and vertical (with other administrations) cooperation should be intensified in this territorial area before seriously thinking about possible institutionalization. 

Please also note that the Laws of Territorial Planning of 1987 include the Llei 6/1987 of April 4, de l’Organització Comarcal de Catalunya giving the regions functions of coordination and cooperation with the municipalities that, to a large extent, coincided with the powers of the Provincial Councils (Mariona Tomas “Govern the Real Barcelona”. 135).

The regional organization, thus configured, also meant the “institutional fragmentation” of the metropolitan territory, in the words of Jordi Borja, and introduced a new entity with which it was necessary to establish coordination links.

We must accept that the territory of Barcelona Gran, as defined by The Rule I or with the extent that its variable geometry ends up fixing, does not have a level of institutionalization of its own. Its governance is necessarily federative and is established through sectoral or territorial cooperation mechanisms (“Quinespolitiques per a five metropolis” point 1.1.) without the proposals contained in the work consulted to advance significantly beyond the planning functions. 

The Unknown Administration

The work “Governing the Real Barcelona” (M. Tomas) contains the reference to a survey conducted by the WBC in 1984. At the time, only 6% of respondents knew WBC and only 2% knew who their president was (p. 166). 

The same author, in her article contained in “Papers 61” refers to a new survey conducted by the Grup de Recerca d’EstudisLocals of the University of Barcelona between 2013 and 2016. Its conclusion is that the persons participating in the groups do not know how to describe that it is the WBA or fix its territory. However, the degree of “identification” with the AMB is remarkable (7.4 in a rating of 0 to 10). The author emphasizes that this is a “functional identification” built on the basis that it is a functioning administration.

It is not uncommon, therefore, that the work “Quinespolitiques per a quina metropoli” insists on the need to generate knowledge of metropolitan urban systems (point 1(a) or it should be noted that:

“There is not yet – or there is very incipiently – a shared narrative that recognizes or strengthens the metropolitan area as the political space necessary to implement certain policies and projects of the first order” (point 2.1).

To continue to insist that any institutional change involves making the metropolitan reality more known and valued (point 2.2 and especially 2.2.a) and concrete in Block B, proposals for improving metropolitan governance, various proposals of a substantially informative nature, especially in section B-04 “LEGITIMITAT DEMOCRATICA METROPOLITANA” which aims to promote a plan to promote the dissemination of the metropolitan territorial area and the institution itself, as well as to give greater visibility into metropolitan policies specifically including:

“Also facilitate mobility throughout the territory to generate a base that helps build the metropolitan imagination and therefore metropolitan demos” (4.2).

It can also help that ignorance the mismatch between what the ABA says and what it actually does. In reality, this dichotomy comes from old, as the WBC devoted its resources to urban planning, public transport, water and sanitation while calling for the need to develop social and administrative policies. (Govern the Royal Barcelona page. 77 sig.).

Today, the Metropolitan Strategic Reflexió (REM) has identified “six paradigmatic axes” for metropolitan construction:

– social inclusion

-sustainable economic development

-environmental sustainability

– efficient mobility

– Cohesive territory

– capitality and governance 

In our opinion, these axes draw the metropolitan administration as it wants to be, and even as it should be; however it is not a correct drawing of what it really is today. Thus, two works by Maite Vilalta, professor of the UB, published respectively in “Papers 61” (in collaboration with Paula Salinas UAB), and in the document “Quinespolitiques per a quina metropoli” show the following situation:

“So, the first thing we need to know is what kind of metropolitan area we have and what we would like to have. The main disjunction is to decide whether the Metropolitan Government, in addition to providing typical urban transport, waste collection and environmental policies, should also provide services closely linked to the welfare state, which are clearly redistributive. Well, by analyzing the budget of expenditure of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB) we can say that it would be more in the first case than in the second.” (Quines polítiques…).

This unknown but recognized as effective administration has a clear vocation to expand its area of action to cover not only services and actions that benefit the whole area, but also those that involve a redistribution of resources, those that generate externalities or those that may present economies of scale. 

Tackling inequality and exclusion on a metropolitan scale or driving measures that improve Barcelona’s competitiveness over other global cities requires institutional changes and improved metropolitan governance.

These policies can only be conceived, planned and implemented from an institutionalized administration and thus, effectively, it was attempted between 1974-1987 through the Metropolitan Corporation of Barcelona under the impulse of Pascual Maragall and thus is being tried now, from 2010, after the establishment of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB).

Recently Oriol Nel, answered him to “Politics &Prosa”:

Surely it would be necessary to provide greater management capacity and agility. We recovered the Autoitat Metropolitana de Barcelona with the Law and 2010. Since then nine years have passed and progress is discrete, there is a widespread consensus that a stronger metropolitan government momentum would be needed” (No. 6, April 2019).

This widespread consensus on the need for a stronger metropolitan government capable of effectively developing policies in a broader area is forged from absolute respect for municipal autonomy and without implying any claim for the merger of the municipalities that are part of the WBA. 

At some point past, some urbanist prestiges defended the desirability of merging municipalities into the barcelona environment. We understand that this approach is overcome and that it creates a new problem and not solve it.

The survey carried out by the Recerca Group in EstudisLocals of the UB show that a majority of respondents reject the idea of incorporating their municipality into Barcelona; however, it seems noteworthy that in cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants 48.3% is favourable, 39.1% opposing and 12.6% undecided (Papers 61 p 57).

It also seems important to record that respondents are in favour of simplifying administration so that they refuse to create new charges without eliminating others in parallel.


The Reflexió Metropolitan Strategy (REM) sets out axes for future action at the metropolitan level that require greater competence and more economic resources. From the initial words of Ada Colau the work “Quinespolitiques….” poses challenges in relation to the territory, institutions and policies while maintaining a certain level of ambiguity with respect to the territorial area concerned.

Sometimes he speaks from the Barcelona Regió I and in others, most, from the AMB as the only institutionalized Metropolitan Administration.

To put it in graphic terms, we find that the document “Quines politiques…” on its map 01 reflects metropolitan services rendered beyond the territory of The Rule I, although certainly with a variable geography. Map 02 is configured as the initial Regió I, with the Garraf and AltPenedes included, matching map 03; but not with the 04 and 05 that when setting the infrastructures of services and railways, reflect the interconnection of the whole territory of Catalonia. Finally, map 06 analyses income inequality in the strict scope of the MBA.  As we have said before, the geography of Barcelona Real is variable and will continue. It is worth a symptom that none of the maps reflected the Regió I in its reduced version of 2017. 

The next problem is urban planning. At this point we assumed that the competition initially attributed to the WBC was assumed by the Generalitat de Catalunya from 1987 and later returned to the AMB through the Llei of 2010.

Institutional uncertainty has led to delays in strategic planning and coordination between the various administrations involved. The Urbanístic Board Of Directors (PDU) will hardly be effective without stronger metropolitan governance.

Moreover, the competences that the WBA aspires to develop are concurrent with the competences of the State and the Generalitat, which requires the development of multi-level relations systems and the establishment of cooperation mechanisms. 

All of this seems extraordinarily difficult if we conceived the WBA as a management body without recognising its status as a political subject. 

It is unquestionable that exercising these competences requires a rethink of the AMBA funding system.

This reform should ensure sufficiency and horizontal equity; but it would also require enabling the AMB to directly develop metropolitan policies and projects rather than serving only as a channel of movement of transfers to the municipalities. 

At this point the Study “Quinespolitiques…” Leave the following question open:

“Fiscal legitimacy: to what extent can the FISCAL and tax system of the CITY be expanded if the majority of the population does not know the institutions and has a political or identity link? Direct elections are needed to expand the tax system?” (point 2.3.b)

Strengthening metropolitan political power is not deligable from the configuration of its representation system. Indirect representation creates distance between representatives and voters, makes the institution more difficult to understand, and is a serious inconvenience in passing management balance, insofar as representatives must act at the metropolitan level, but are re-elected at the local level. To put it in the words of Mariona Tomas: 

The continuity of metropolitan councillors does not depend on their performance on a metropolitan, but municipal scale” (Papers 61 p. 54).

Entering into the area of economic policy, the challenges are the fight against inequality, the momentum of the circular economy and the momentum of the energy transition. Also in this field, increasing the supply of social housing requires a metropolitan policy that must be based on existing instruments such as IMPSOL or the ConsorciMetropolit s de l’Habitatge and HabitatgeMetropolis Barcelona; but it will not have the necessary potential without deep institutional reform and its funding.

The study “Quines politiques...” it includes, as an instrument to combat inequality, the creation of Metropolitan Neighborhoods, equivalent to the seventy-three neighborhoods of Barcelona, to understand that the needs and possibilities are better detected in this field of action. 

There is a significant discrepancy regarding the level of execution of the “Pla del Barris” defined and executed by the Barcelona City Council in the last legislature. There is, however, a broad consensus on the desirability of operating, at the metropolitan level, on the same type of territorial unit. In this regard, Francesc Magriny (Director of the Strategic Planning Area of the AMB) believes that it is necessary to:

“The development of a methodology for the establishment of metropolitan neighbourhoods and the development of a methodology and application for the definition of synthetic indicators for metropolitan neighborhoods.” (“Quinespolitiques…”page 54)

Finally, it is essential to refer to the international projection of metropólis Barcelona. Today, major metropolises generate 80% of global GDP. In an economy based on knowledge and innovation, growth is concentrated in a network of global cities that covers the world (Xavi Casinos Politica& Prosa No. 6 p. 64; Jordi Borja i Mireia Belil “Quinespolitiques..” p. 39).

These cities compete with each other to attract talent to create businesses and also to be attractive to investment, especially in sectors capable of creating quality employment as is the case in the ICT sector. Barcelona entered the network of global cities as a result of the efforts of many, but in a special way, under the direction of Pascual Maragall as mayor and all those who made possible the 1992 JJOO. 

However, staying at the top and remaining an attractive city for investment and talent is not easy and we cannot forget that very recently the EMA has found its new headquarters in Amsterdam and not in Barcelona. 

Boosting Barcelona’s international presence requires powerful and effective management. As Mireia Belil and Jordi Borja point out, “city diplomacy is expanding” (“Quinespolitiques..” p. 39); but global alliances between cities will only be possible and effective by strengthening democracy at the local level and specifically at the metropolitan level.


Mariona Tomas’ work “Governing the Royal Barcelona” was published in 2017; but it is still full news today. It is a work focused on the contributions of Pascual Maragall to the Metropolitan idea, first in his capacity as mayor of Barcelona and later as President of the Generalitat. The work is closed with a reflection that we consider appropriate to transcribe:

 “However, we are still far from the vision of the Maragall metropolitan area as a political and appropriate space for citizenship; a future investigation would have to be to analyze whether it is carried out or not, for what reasons.”

Today, it is easy to see that Maragall anticipated his time and defended a concept of metropolitan Barcelona that ran into strong resistances already overcome. Pending this future investigation that Mariona Tomás proposes and that the document “Quinespolitiques…” announces, B.D.F. wants to present its modest contribution to the debate on governance that Barcelona Metropolitana needs.

For those of us who intend to build on principles of representativeness, legitimacy and responsibility that must characterize every good government. This certainly implies the need to overcome the indirect election of the Metropolitan Council and to assume as its own the trend that is observed throughout Europe in favour of the direct election of the bodies of the Metropolitan Government, although in doing so we fully respect the specific characteristics of the Metropolis Barcelona.

For many reasons we think that, in the specific case of Barcelona, it is more convenient to establish a mixed system in the Metropolitan Council and not to directly elect the Metropolitan Mayor.

In order for the system to be effective, it would be desirable to expand the current number of ninety directors and to move to one hundred, not only because this represents the recovery of the Consell de Cent, so deeply associated with the moments of maximum international expansion in Barcelona, but for strictly functional reasons.

Some of these councillors should be natural members incorporating directly the thirty-six mayors of the metropolitan municipalities. Their presence in the Metropolitan Area is already a fact in the current configuration, and it makes perfect sense from the point of view of municipal federalism that we defend, guarantee them the presence in the highest governing body of the AMB and enhance the functions currently played by the Conselld’Alcaldes.

The remaining sixty-four metropolitan councillors could be elected by single-member districts in a single lap. With the current population of the Metropolitan Area, this is an advisor for every fifty thousand inhabitants. Which is exactly the population taken as a reference to attribute the deputies who correspond to the province of Barcelona in theParlament de Catalunya (Disp. Transitional Fourth Section 2 E.A.C.)

The creation of a metropolitan consciousness requires defining electoral constituencies without municipal demarcations, seeking spaces that coincide, as far as possible, with existing “neighbourhoods” and projected “metropolitan neighborhoods” to you.

In terms of territorial representation, our proposal does not substantially change the current situation in which the municipality of Barcelona has twenty-five representatives on ninety members, now it would go on to have thirty-two out of a total of one hundred. The Metropolitan Council thus configured would choose from its components the Metropolitan Mayor who would thus enjoy the confidence of a majority in the Council.

The need for a permanent link between representatives and representatives and the widespread sense of crisis around the very idea of representative democracy make it advisable to give the electorate the possibility of promoting a vote of revocation of elected councillors.

Urging a revocation vote should require that its promoters have the initial support of a reasonable percentage of voters, considering at least 10% advisable, giving rise, if such support is verified, to a strictly revocation vote which, if successful, would lead to a new electoral call only in the district concerned.

The system thus conceived ensures, in our view, that the institution’s level of knowledge increases rapidly, even at relatively low levels of participation.

It also complies with the principle of representativeness and legitimacy of origin and ensures that councillors, except those of a natural nature, respond to their metropolitan management directly against their electorate, breaking the dysfunction currently existing that judges metropolitan management with local optics.

It is true that, as the system arises, it is not operating in any metropolitan administration in our environment. However, the differences from other models are substantially two: 

  1. The incorporation of the mayors as natural members of the Metropolitan Council.
  2. Admission of the vote to revoke the mandate.

The first is already a reality in our system and responds to the recognition of the federative character that the Metropolitan Barcelona has always had and which is also the only possible way towards the future institutionalization of Barcelona Region. 

The second is an increasingly widespread contribution to use in systems that consider it essential to bring representatives closer to their constituents and to give voters more effective systems to hold their representatives accountable.

It is important to note that BDF’s proposal for new governance does not involve the creation of new administrations. On the contrary, to the extent that the democratic legitimacy and representativeness of a pre-existing administration increases, it should enable a decrease in bodies whose staff, budget and functions would be assumed by the WBA.

Once the Consell Comarcal del Barcelonés has already been abolished or redefined, the regional councils of Baix Llobregat and the Western Valley should be abolished or redefined, deleging their competences to the WBA.

The same should be the case with the Barcelona Provincial Council which would go on to exercise its powers beyond the territory of the AMB while delegating powers and transferring resources in favour of the AMB.

The result would mean stronger, more efficient, more structurally rather than costly administration if duplicate bodies are abolished and powers delegated appropriately.

Last but not least, the establishment of a new governance system for the WBA does not require complicated constitutional or statutory processes or reforms. The law of creation of the WBA is a law of the Parliament of Catalonia and the reform of its governance can be done by the same means: it is simply a matter of political will.

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