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Essay by Rita Barbará Nolla
Mayor of Valencia, Spain

Valencia is my passion. Attractive as a place for living in and visiting, for work and investment, over the last 15 years we have made it a symbol of prestige, excellence and quality, a city that is in the vanguard: ambitious, modern, strong, innovative, internationally recognised, with great opportunities, and great challenges, for the future.

It is a city that has risen by itself, through the strength of its entrepreneurs, through the tenacity of its small and medium-sized companies, through the capacity for innovation of its business sector, through its highly-qualified professionals, through the excellent training and research of its universities, through the will to succeed of its inhabitants, through the dynamism of the neighbourhood associations, and through the combined efforts of the population and the Valencian public administration.

The city, which I feel so proud of, has become a powerful and vibrant driving force for the dreams and aspirations of all its inhabitants. Over recent years we have worked from grassroot level. We drew up a strategic plan in order to make clear our objectives. The Valencia City Council has motivated, mobilised, promoted, invested, encouraged and offered its citizens both the support and the tools necessary for success.

Our support, in terms of municipal management, for the construction of this new Valencia has also meant providing a network of communications, infrastructures, local facilities and public services appropriate for the major European city that it has become.

Urban planning
The Valencia of today would be unimaginable without cultural and architectural landmarks such as the City of Arts and Sciences, which has come to symbolise the launching of our tourist industry. The growth of this industry is due, and I quote from a recent technical report, to the investments made in the renovation and construction of leisure and cultural facilities of the highest quality, together with the image conferred by the city’s status as host of the next America’s Cup.

The city, which today welcomes millions of visitors, would be inconceivable if it were not for the renewed image offered by our cultural heritage. Nearly 180 million euro have been spent on the restoration, for use by the city’s population, of outstanding architectural monuments such as the Colon Market, along with stately homes, bridges, towers, local markets and other industrial and country houses. Work has also begun on the cleaning and restoration of the Silk Exchange, a jewel in the crown of secular Gothic architecture (declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996).

The Valencia that attracts cultural tourism is a cosmopolitan city of major museums, art galleries and concert halls such as the Principe Felipe, IVAM, the San Pio V, the Palau de les Arts and the Palau de la Música.

It is also a city that creates and promotes smaller, local museums such as the museums of the Rice-growing Industry and of the Maritime Holy Week Processions, the house of the Benlliure family of artists, or the L’Almoina. As a result of such efforts, Valencia is today probably the European city in which most heritage has been reclaimed.

It is also impossible to think of the city without the infrastructures that attract a different kind of visitor: the one who visit our city on business. Valencia currently occupies third place at world level in terms of increases in the number of international meetings held, with a growth rate of 950 per cent over the last ten years.

For almost two decades we have made a strong commitment to the Valencia Trade Fair Centre, which is now one of the most important and prestigious in Europe. We have built and promoted the Congress Centre (designed by Norman Foster), and we have promoted our city throughout the world under a new, recently introduced trademark accompanied by the slogan “Vive Valencia”.

An outline of the projection of the new Valencia would, however, not be complete without taking into account the 32nd America’s Cup. This is an event of such proportions, and with such repercussion in the sporting, economic and media spheres, that we are now situated among the most attractive cities in the world and recognised in the five continents as a quality tourist destination, with all this implies in terms of business dynamism and the creation of wealth and employment.

Each inhabitant of Valencia plays a part in the city’s great opportunity. We all create and participate in each of the factors that allow us to be proud of our city. It is because of this that we are once again experiencing the splendour, the greatness and the vocation for universality that was to be found in the city in the XV century.

Keys for management success
Our achievements have been founded on three, essential factors:
• Trust and collaboration between the public and private sectors. This has enabled us to develop participation by the population as a whole, and the involvement of the business and industrial sectors.

• Freedom. Without neglecting our responsibilities we have released the enormous capacity for creativity and investment that exists in Valencian society

• Institutional stability. This has allowed us to offer the strongest guarantees for the success of the different projects, and for the possibilities of generating wealth and employment.

The above is not simply rhetoric. For the first time in Valencia, full technical employment among the male population has been reached. Alongside this, unemployment among the female population has fallen by 78 per cent in ten years.

The development of our city has been vigorous, constant and open to all. It is also sustainable due to the fact that never before has our natural heritage been so well and so widely protected.

Part of this urban heritage is the “green” Valencia, the Valencia of large parks and pleasant gardens, with more than 660 local parks and an outstanding nature reserve adjacent to the area of urban development.

Since 1991 we have reclaimed eight kilometres of dune coast line, and regenerated 29 hectares of the Devesa. As we finish celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Albufera’s classification as an official Nature Reserve, we do so in the satisfaction of having directed more than 28 million euro to a thorough regeneration programme which allows the city’s inhabitants to enjoy one of the most privileged environments in Europe.

Above all, however, we have worked to make the quality of our municipal services something that is felt in the lives of the city’s population in the form of gardens, libraries, university access, centres for the elderly, museums, sports centres, transport and parking facilities. All the progress we have made is reflected in the local neighbourhoods, including fibre optic technology. This is accompanied by our commitment to the widespread distribution of all the new technologies. Valencia was the first major city in Spain to be wired with cable, and from our centres of local government we continue to offer free training for and access to the internet.

The Juan Carlos I Royal Marina
With the 32nd America’s Cup Valencia is realising one of its great aspirations as a city: to open itself up to the sea. The 32nd America’s Cup will be, without doubt, the international event par excellence in which the city’s population will take part. However, if there is one important consequence of this event for the city, it is that, thanks to the Juan Carlos I Royal Marina, Valencia will become one of the most beautiful tourist-nautical destinations in the Mediterranean.

We already have, for the construction is in the advanced stages, an attractive marina with two expanses of water connected by an 80-metre long canal. This will offer 1,500 moorings for all kind of leisure craft, including large yachts. There will also be a dry dock for ‘mega-yachts’. The marina will measure 1,200,000 m2, and will be supported by all the services that a city such as Valencia has to offer.

In 2008 it will be the turn of the Indoor Athletics World Championships, and Valencia will have a further date with the sporting elite as they make their way from Moscow to celebrate this important event.

2009 will see the opening of the new stadium and Valencia will join the circuit of major cities capable of hosting the final of a ‘Champions’ League’, and of celebrating cultural events of prime importance.

As we have seen from the above, Valencia’s diary is full of major events. However, if one recent event has to be singled out, it must be the “Fifth World Meeting of Families” attended by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. This brought over one million pilgrims to our streets, and showed that our organisational capacities were more than adequate.

Challenges and opportunities
The challenges we face are fascinating. We are at present ready to complete the restoration of the old centre of the city, and of the Art Nouveau buildings that were constructed for the Regional Exhibition held in Valencia in 1909. Other projects nearing completion are the Parque de Cabecera, which will be home to an almost 100 meters high Ferris wheel, the Great Marina, the Central Park, the Biopark, Sociopolis, the new stadium for the Valencia FC, and architect Santiago Calatrava’s Towers and Agora.

We will also reinforce our position as a cultural reference on an international scale - already consolidated by the Palau de la Música - with the debut of the Palau de les Arts. We will also see the consolidation of emerging sectors of our economy such as biotechnology, science and health, information technology and nanotechnology.

Today, Valencia’s project for the future is unstoppable. It is through this conviction, which the majority of the city’s inhabitants share, that we will achieve even better things. We will give the world even more reason to come to Valencia, to know Valencia, and to live in Valencia. To all of this you are cordially invited.

Rita Barbara Nolla, Mayor of Valencia

Rita Barbará Nolla

Rita Barberá was born on the 16th July, 1948, the feast day of “Nuestra Señora la Virgen del Carmen”, patron of the men and women of the sea. This maritime date was a premonition for someone who has made it possible for Valencia to enter the history books as host of the 32nd America’s Cup, the world’s oldest and most prestigious sailing competition.

It is the close ties between the Mayor and the Mediterranean Sea that have helped to form her open character and personality, her great facility for communication, and her interpersonal skills.

The Valencians of the 21st century who have elected Rita Barberá as Mayor on four consecutive occasions (the last three with an absolute majority) inhabit today a city that is in the vanguard, a city of entrepreneurs with a lively and qualified population, with high-quality services and excellent installations and facilities, and where the vanguard can be seen to emerge from the heart of the city and its thousand-year long history.

From a very early age, even before completing her university education, Rita Barberá made contact with the world that fascinated her: journalism. She developed her professional career in a variety of media while at the same time pursuing her academic studies. In 1971 she graduated with a degree in Political, Economic and Business Sciences. Four years later, in 1975, she passed the Civil Service examinations for a post in the Special Unit of Trade Union Economists. At the same time she took courses in Information Science at the Alcalá de Henares University in Madrid.

It was through her work as a journalist during the first years of the Transition that she discovered her great vocation: the public realm. In 1976 her political concerns had led her to become co-founder of the “Alianza Popular”, today the “Partido Popular” (PP), in Valencia. Her first elected post came in 1983 as Member of Parliament for the regional government, a seat she won again in 1987. At the same time she assumed responsibilities as spokesperson for the PP parliamentary group. In the regional government elections of 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003 she was re-elected as Member of Parliament, and has therefore been one of the main protagonists in the development of the Valencia region’s self-government.

However, if there is one year that marks a turning point in Rita Barberá’s political career it is 1991. That year she stood as candidate in the local government elections as head of the Partido Popular. It is a position she still holds today.

At a national level, she is currently Vice-president of the Spanish Federation of Local and Provincial Governments (FEMP). She was the president of this body between 1995 and 2003. From her position in the FEMP, the Mayor of Valencia has developed a wide range of political activities and has worked for the recognition of local administration as the institution that is closest to a city’s inhabitants.

Rita Barberá has already announced her decision to stand as candidate in the elections of 2007. She does so after having placed Valencia in a position which cannot be bettered as one of the most attractive cities in Europe.