Barcelona, capital of Catalonia, is the economic and culture center on an international scale and is considered one of the most important tourist cities in Europe. Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain, with 1.6 million inhabitants and 3.2 million residents in its suburbs. The regime in Barcelona is autonomous, as part of the policy of the Spanish central government to grant autonomy to the various nationalities in Spain.
The name of Barcelona is named after the village “Barzlons” that was in the Roman city, the main explanation of the researchers is that the meaning of the name in the Catalan language is a combination of three words – wave, water and well (for additional information – History of Barcelona).
The history of the city is known for many wars and replacement of rulers, due to the city’s strategic location, as a link between the Iberian Peninsula and Europe, and the fact that it is an important port city. Another important historical fact is that throughout many times in history, Barcelona was the main resistance to the tyrants who ruled in Spain.
Barcelona is considered a city with a special character, combining artistic madness and the option to enjoy life. Barcelona is also famous for its international performances (for additional information – Sport and Events in Barcelona) as well as the local artists who give the city its own rhythm.
The city of Barcelona is characterized by an extensive sports culture, which includes almost all known sports. FC Barcelona, one of the largest and most important football clubs in Europe, is one of the city’s symbols. There are also many universities and students in the city, which automatically increases the number of young people around the city. This multitude is affecting directly on the nightlife and the excellent music clubs in the city. Barcelona also excels in its fondness for art and culture, and thus has many important museums, like the museums of Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. Barcelona is also famous for the unique modernist style and its icon – Antoni Gaudi who is responsible for some of the most known buildings like La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell (who were recognized by UNESCO as an international cultural sites).
Among others touristic sites around the city it is also worth mentioning the football stadium Camp Nou, Port Vell, Barcelona Aquarium and La Rambla, along with parks and many museums.
Regime and Government
Before talking about the autonomy of Catalonia and Barcelona, it is important to understand that Spain is not a homogenous nation state and it has many nationalities and ethnic groups .When Spain was ruled by Franco’s dictatorial rule, it brutally suppressed all cultural differences (for additional information – Spanish Civil War), but since the fall of Franco’s regime there have been 17 communities and two cities with wide legislative and administrative autonomy. The autonomous status is based on the Spanish constitution and ensures cultural diversity while preserving the unity of the Spanish state. As noted, Barcelona is the capital of the Catalonia and the Barzlons. The community living in Barcelona and Catalonia is one of the largest autonomous communities and includes many services, such as tax collection and the establishment of a strong local police force.
Since the province gained renewed autonomy in December 1979, relations with the center range from moderate tension to cooperation, thanks to Jordi Pujol, the omnipotent district prime minister who has served in the position since 1980. Barcelona’s community is considered to be a very strong autonomous community, both in terms of electoral and economic power, and it is negotiating with the Spanish government on many issues such as the amount of taxes to be transferred to it.
As in any capital city, in Barcelona there are buildings of government and politics, such as the seat of the Catalan government, the parliament and the supreme court – all located in the Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park).
The party system in Catalonia consists of five main players. The party that has ruled Catalonia since 1980 is a coalition of parties with a nationalist-conservative nature called CiU. Although this party is characterized by national messages, it presents a moderate and pragmatic line and in some cases supported the national governments in Madrid. Its main rival in the province is the Catalonian faction of the Spanish Socialist Party. On the right side of the map is the popular party (the one that has dominated Spain since 1996). On the left side, there is a left-wing alliance (communists) and the Greens, and the Republican Left Party (ERC), which advocates secession from Spain and complete independence for Catalonia, which has become very strong in the recent years.
Economy, Trade and Demography
Barcelona is an important economic center for Spain and for Europe. The city is one of the most important Mediterranean ports in Europe, and the city’s international airport (El Prat Airport) is the second largest in Spain. Since its inception, Barcelona has been a trading city that has taken advantage of its proximity to the sea to become one of the two most prosperous cities in the Iberian Peninsula.
Today the economic situation in Barcelona is the best among all the cities of Spain, which are in a recession and a difficult economic period.
Many people from Barcelona have the feeling that they “finance Spain’s lazy inhabitants in the other areas” (mainly in Andalusia, southern Spain). They blame the fact that they have to pay higher taxes as part of the reason for slowing the city’s growth (which reached close to 10 percent a year in the previous decade and now falls below five).
The economy in Barcelona is based on industry and commerce, but the city’s leading economic sector is undoubtedly the tourism industry – close to 17% of the city’s economy! The economic development of Barcelona has brought a significant immigration, both from Spain and abroad, which created many challenges for the local leadership. In order to illustrate how significant and challenging this migration is – in January 2000, the foreign citizens living in Barcelona constituted 3.5% of the total population, whereas at the beginning of 2010, they were 17% of the total population (350,000 people).