Euroregion, Maragall and Feijoo

Looking at the past with eyes of the future, recommended Hannah Arendt.

Euroregion, Maragall and Feijoo

Looking at the past with eyes of the future, recommended Hannah Arendt. This is what we must do with part of the political (and prophetic) legacy of Pasqual Maragall. Almost twenty years ago, Maragall launched an idea: to set up a coalition of regionally based interests (understanding the region as it is done in Europe, that is, Bavarian style) that, clamping down on the pro-European spirit, would make it possible to avoid the iron embrace of the state bear. The idea was ambitious: to define a new unexplored playing field. It was not about assuming the playing field of others to reproduce his game, with his rules, but about modeling a new space like the potter's clay. This is how the Pyrenees-Mediterranean Euroregion emerged in 2004. The idea must be related to his effort in 1990 to establish the C-6 network of cities of the former Crown of Aragon. The geographer Martín i Uceda, in a paper for the Fundació Catalunya Europa, reminds us that President Pujol had also launched proposals for collaboration with French regions, although more from political affinity than from a strategic vision.

After twenty years, what remains of that Euroregion, apart from its own legal existence, let's face it, diminished politically, economically and territorially? Would it be possible to relaunch the spirit of that idea dressed in other clothing? In a recent book on the work of Maragall's government, Professor Joan Vicente was right to point out the spirit that survives: seek the synthesis of options, not live on exclusions, accept a Hegelian logic of integration of disparate and a desire to overcome dualisms (metropolitan/non-metropolitan, urban/non-urban spaces, related/unrelated colors). An integrating territorial-based policy that links with the one that has been spreading in other places in Spain: as in Galicia, where progress has also been made in the Euroregional idea. Without going any further, less than a year ago, on July 28, 2021, the then president of the Xunta, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, today the new leader of the Popular Party, recalled his commitment to a Galicia-North Portugal Euroregion. The website of the Xunta collects his statements verbatim: “He concluded by betting on a broader Eurorection, with the aggregation of more dynamic businessmen and universities; more global, with a commitment to Lusophony as a connection vehicle with the Community of Portuguese-Language Countries; more protagonist, transmitting the essential role of the regions in the Conference on the Future of Europe and more extensive”. I hope that your fellow Valencians read you, Mr. Núñez Feijóo. Also in its linguistic background.

However, twenty years do not pass in vain. The Pyrenees-Mediterranean Euroregion must reinvent itself. In 2003, Maragall launched a daring idea: some territories in search of some processes. Today the situation is reversed: it is the processes that are looking for territories. The change is substantial. When the then PSC candidate proposed the constitution of the Euroregion, he did so under the prism of building an instrument of territorial, political and economic action that would improve the possibilities of insertion of Catalonia and the rest of the associated territories in the productive dynamics of Europe. There was a lot of will in it: territories exploring concertation of actions to create new economic, urban, mobility contexts... Today the situation is reversed. We witness the daily formation of new realities and it is as if they were looking for the territories where they fit best. Today this Euroregion 2.0 should not be so much a proactive and voluntary instrument as a reactive and remote-controlled strategic response, attentive more than ever to the signs of the time: large new industrial investments, unprecedented productive actions in response to the supply crisis and the strategic production of components, new forms of urban tourism with an international scope, greater awareness of the need for energy security with resources capable of supplying the rest of Europe, determined urban and metropolitan sustainable mobility policies, promotion of food production, new logistics roles and ports, long-range inter-European projects such as the Mediterranean corridor (a new Via Augusta)… They are processes in search of territories: we must return to Pirandello.

Twenty years later, the idea of ​​a Euroregional rethinking has powerful assets that were weak in 2003. In the first place, the process of European economic integration is today much more mature: let us not forget that Maragall's proposal coincided with the birth of a euro that is now fully accepted. Second, there is greater awareness of the problems associated with climate change, which favors addressing its consequences jointly and cooperatively. And thirdly, there are powerful European economic funds to launch coordinated proposals for actions with a network vision. The European budgets associated with the trans-European transport network mobilize 33,700 million euros for the 2021-2027 period, without forgetting the Next Generation initiative and the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism.

It is necessary to recognize that impulse of Maragall and reorient it, with greater flexibility, providing slack to the partners, with actions with concrete repercussions in the daily life of its inhabitants, in the improvement of public policies and in the greater efficiency of the resources managed and focusing on issues such as mobility, transport, logistics, infrastructures, the business and productive fabric, exports, climate change, food and energy security, powerful alliances of a sectoral nature instead of bets based on generic agreements. This redesign must be associated with the process of "regionalized globalization" that has emerged as a result of the pandemic, the response to geopolitical risk and the reorganization of supply chains. And, of course, its metropolitan areas must play an essential role, claiming greater prominence.