19 June 2021
The Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi (r), together with the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez (i) and the president of Foment, Josep Sánchez Llibre (r) after receiving this Friday the commemorative medal of the 250th anniversary of the Catalan employers’ association Foment del Treball in recognition of his “rigorous work and commitment to public service.” EFE / Andreu Dalmau
The square of the Cercle
The political and economic agenda is cooking these days in Barcelona. It is in the Catalan capital where the pardon debate takes place in large part, with the recent opening pronouncements of the employer’s association, businessmen and the Catalan bishops on the grace measure for the procés leaders. It is in Barcelona where two important state visits have taken place this week. That of the president of South Korea, Mun Jae In, who has been the first foreign president to set foot in Spain after the pandemic. And that of the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, who came yesterday to receive the medal of honor from Foment de Treball and to meet with his counterpart Pedro Sánchez. An act of notable relevance, taking into account that the bilateral summits between the two countries had not been held since 2014. To the aforementioned we can also add the King’s stay in Barcelona, which took place in Catalonia in a climate of normality and institutional cordiality, unlike on previous occasions.
The Cercle d’Economia days – in which Draghi was also distinguished – were the propitious setting and the breeding ground for several events of political and economic importance. It is part of the history of this business meeting to be not only the thermometer of Catalan society, when formulating debates of interest and current affairs, but also to develop an active role as a meeting place to contribute to concrete advances. A few years ago, in the midst of the procés storm, the current president of the Cercle d’Economia Foundation, Antón Costas, met several Catalan politicians in the box (when the conference was held at Sitges) and asked them ironically if they greeted each other in the hallways. It was an invitation to harmony that, with the passage of time, it can be said that it has obtained its fruits, since dialogue and negotiation have been the two most repeated words during the different political and business forums this year at the hotel W from Barcelona.
Pardons, Mario Draghi’s visit and recovery debate: Barcelona takes center stage
At a time when, after this year’s break, global summits such as the Davos Economic Forum still have no date or place assigned for their next edition, events such as the Cercle d’Economia days are claimed as useful tools, when the debate – on complex but unavoidable issues – provides content. Being the theme of this year’s meeting that of post-pandemic reconstruction, some of the lines of action that will mark the debate on future economic policy were addressed: from the demand to strengthen infrastructure (such as the airport), through the need from creating a climate to favor the return of Catalan companies that stopped having their headquarters in Catalonia, to the development of a more decentralized State that allows the use of European recovery funds in an effective way and based in the territory, which promotes a sustainable growth.
In this sense, Draghi’s words indicate the way forward. Because, as he stressed, Europe will only be able to get ahead of the pandemic crisis by guaranteeing a “reinforced social model adapted to our times”. And, all this, within the framework of a “more modern, competitive and supportive EU, which goes beyond the divisions between north and south and feels united”.
The consensus concept developed by Draghi, whose government in Italy has a broad base of support from the left to the right, is read as an invitation to overcome divisions to achieve greater social progress. The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, agreed that “harmony is also an economic value”. After a long time of fighting in Spain, this model should inspire our political class and civil society. The cosmopolitan, open and entrepreneurial Barcelona of these days can be the laboratory of tomorrow’s recovery.