Barcelona Mayor: ‘Rebel’ cities must tackle Brussels on refugee crisis

Ada Colau became mayor after riding a wave of popular support based on her championing of people affected by the financial crisis. [Barcelona En Comú/Flickr]

Barcelona’s Mayor, Ada Colau, has criticised Brussels’ response to situations like the refugee crisis and denounced the EU for being “interest-based”, calling for a network of cities to be set up to “better represent the people”. EURACTIV Spain reports.

On Thursday (14 July), Colau participated in an event called “Rebel Cities to Change Europe”, along with her Neapolitan counterpart, Luigi de Magistris, who is a former prosecutor and was recently re-elected for a second term; both leaders highlighted how their respective movements have tried to “clean up democracy” and forge a “third pathway” in Italy and Spain.

Held on the Venetian mainland, the event was attended by nearly 300 people. The panel shared how their respective experiences in charge of two of the largest cities in Europe have convinced them that there is a need for a network of “cities of change”.

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Colau became mayor of Barcelona after a rapid rise to the upper echelons based on her leadership of the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages, which was set up to support people evicted from their homes as a result of the 2008 financial crisis.

De Magistris recalled how when he was first elected in 2011, he found his municipality to be “enthusiastic”, despite the ruinous financial situation he inherited and “years of falsified accounts”.

Both criticised the European Union, in particular its handling of the refugee crisis and its institutions, as people have not felt represented by them for years.

Colau urged people to “remember that Europe was born a land that defends life with all of its liberties and rights” and condemned the EU for being “built from above” and “based on interests”.

She also called for the establishment of a “network of friendly cities, not intended to be a new form of bureaucracy, but a new way of doing things”.

The Catalan mayor also highlighted that “people need tangible examples of how people’s lives are made better”. She added that the proposed network “should not be built on links between mayors or government, but between the cities themselves”.

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De Magistris echoed her sentiment, saying that “we have forgotten the Europe of the people and of people’s rights”. He also agreed that the EU should delegate more responsibility to local authorities when crafting its policies.

The Naples mayor added that cities are refusing to “participate in the cold war” that European countries have launched against Russia and said that activities between Russians, Ukrainians and American citizens are promoted in his municipality.

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