Ximo Puig, President of the Valencian Community
1 November 2021
Table of the employers’ associations at the Zaragoza Summit. LVE
In times of patriotic hyperglycemia, a map is always preferable to a flag. It simplifies less. And it allows us to see realities that the official story hides. This week, the summit sponsored in Zaragoza by the employers of the Valencian Community, Catalonia, Aragon and the Balearic Islands has put into focus a map too many times relegated by the official narrative. Our four sister territories, which dominate the Mediterranean in the days of the Aragonese Crown from Tarazona to Atenas, today make up a great urban, economic and social system. Our four economies would form the ninth country in the European Union by GDP. We receive 99 million tourists a year. We represent a third of the Spanish GDP. And we bring together five of the eleven largest cities in Spain: Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza, Palma and Alicante. However, we lack self-awareness of our joint potential. And businessmen have been, this time, ahead of politicians.
The map has changed. Gone is the medieval map of which we were the capital of southern Europe. Today we inhabit the global map of a hyper-connected world, which tilts towards the Pacific, with new actors and new rules. A map that forces us to reset our gaze. No bell tower spirits. No sterile rivalries. Without nostalgia or outdated suspicions. The new look is easy to sum up: more cooperation. That is the compass that should guide us on the Mediterranean façade. And it is so after the pandemic and in the midst of global turbulence (energy, shortages, inflation) that force us to take extreme responsibility.
This week, as we gathered in this forum, unprecedented in decades, the Danube Euro-region celebrated its 10th anniversary. Länders, regions and states that in the past fought bloody wars, now united around a geographical idea, the Danube as a corridor, to develop common strategies around railway infrastructures, tourism or the knowledge society. They –just like the more advanced Europe by uniting its ports– make the message clear: We must overcome the ‘bordering’ of the autonomous communities.
“The new look is easy to summarize: more cooperation. That is the compass that should guide us on the Mediterranean façade”
The old map of the 20th century was too small for us. And in this new map of global scales, the equation is clear: Who goes alone, loses; who adds allies, wins. That is why it is crucial that the four governments add synergies. It is the message that the Valencian Community launches in all forums: in Andalusia and Palma, in Galicia, Madrid and Aragon: there are too many walls and there are no bridges. But not theoretical. Not rhetorical. Neither identity. This is not the time for ballroom dancing. We must overcome the logic of competition between neighbors and replace it with cooperation with neighbors to compete with other European macro-regions. Criticism of inefficient centralism must be accompanied by greater cooperation between territories with shared interests.
The decalogue of the four employers’ associations is a good starting point. In my opinion, there are three priorities to cooperate on. First, project the Mediterranean façade on a global scale. Second, to forge a powerful rail system for the transport of goods (with more state support for the Mediterranean corridor and the Cantabrian axis). And third, to boost our enormous logistics and connectivity potential to become a reference in southern Europe as a region specialized in the movement of goods. There is a lot of scope to cooperate. At the Zaragoza meeting I recalled the metaphor of the clump of cane, by Ramon Muntaner, chronicler of the Crown of Aragon. Not even ten men uproot all the bound clumps; but from reed to reed, even a child plucks them. For the good of our societies, the mandate is clear: cooperate. Together – all of us – we are stronger than we would be separately. It is not about flags. It’s about maps.