Solsona is the main city and municipality of the “comarca” Solsonès in the Catalan province of Lleida, Catalonia, Spain. The mayor of the city, David Rodriguez, has been a member of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) party since 2002. He told us about his political views on the independence of Catalonia, shared the main plans and tasks of the mayor’s office and explained why Solsona is a “city with character”.
Interview: Ximena Bravo
If you have to promote Solsona in terms of tourism, what would you recommend to tourists first of all?
You should definitely visit the old city which was built in the Middle Ages. It is well preserved and is an important monumental landmark in which the cathedral and its grounds are particularly worth visiting.
What are the dynamics of tourism in Solsona over the past 10 years? Could you tell us about the tourists visiting your city?
Most of them, (more than two-thirds) are Catalans from Barcelona. That is why we focus on local tourism. Spaniards make up 12% of the total tourists. The rest are mainly French, Belgians, Dutch and English.
Does your city council have a strategic plan to attract tourists, including international ones?
We have a Tourism Plan (Pla Director Turístic de Solsona), which has been in place for more than two mandates. It is a part of the strategic plan of the Local Development Agency (Agència de Desenvolupament Local).
The main attention is paid to the popularization of festive events, that is, intangible heritage events. The Town Festival (la Festa Major) has been declared a festival of national heritage and for many years our carnival has been one of the most popular ones in the country and is of great tourist interest.
This year we received the status of a “City with Character” (Ciutat amb Caràcter), largely due to this heritage. Solsona’s holidays are events that emphasize the personality of our city like nothing else.
What important cultural events took place in Solsona in 2019? What are your plans for 2020?
We celebrated the 425th anniversary of the name of the city and held many cultural events. We began to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Orfeó Nova Solsona (an art and music organization dedicated to choral music), held nationwide elections for the heiress and heir to Catalonia (Pubilla i l’Hereu de Catalunya), a folk tradition that has been practiced since the mid-twentieth century in the municipalities of Catalonia.
In addition to these extraordinary events, one can highlight the AIMS festival (“Academia Internacional de Música de Solsona”), which has allowed Solsona to participate in international art competitions for 18 years.
Next year, the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Orfeó Nova Solsona will continue (since the organization was created in 1920).
Finally, we will widely celebrate the 50th anniversary of the city carnival.
Cobla Juvenil Ciutat in Solsona also organizes a special program in honor of its 25th anniversary.
What can you say about the city’s economy?
We are the city under development. The foundation of our economy is made up of small businesses with diversified sectors. First of all, this is a trade business. We are in the process of recovering from several difficult years. I really hope that our city will only continue to prosper in the future.
In which service sectors does the city council invest the most resources?
More than 2 million euros are allocated to municipal services. It includes environmental care, garbage collection, road repair and cleaning. It should be kept in mind that our city directly controls the water supply and the only funeral services in the region.
In the near future, we will also begin a census of empty houses.
Are there any foreign investors in the city? Which sectors of the economy are most popular among them?
In our city, most of our businesses are family-run ones. They consist of small Catalan enterprises. We understand that job creation should be linked to local business growth.
Do you somehow support local businesses? Are there any programs and initiatives from the city council with regard to this?
On behalf of the Local Development Agency, which I spoke about earlier, we are collaborating in joint campaigns with the Union of Shop Owners and Merchants of Solsona (Unió de Botiguers i Comerciants). We also promote our own initiatives and collaborate with a network of ancient neighborhoods (la Xarxa de Barris Antics), in which several Catalan municipalities participate.
Could you tell us about your project “Coffee with the Mayor”?
A few years ago, we proposed this initiative to find new channels of direct communication with citizens – without the formalities of a city council. The project is intended for the general public and allows you to freely ask questions and resolve problems of common interest and within the competence of the municipality.
Is Solsona a popular city for immigration? How many immigrants live in your city?
Most of the immigrants, about one third are of Moroccan origin, the rest are residents of Eastern Europe, mainly Romania, Ukraine and Bulgaria. Approximately 15% of the population of Solsona has foreign citizenship.
As a part of this mandate, we will continue to work on the integration of various “ethnic groups” and work towards rapprochement with minority communities.
In Europe, there are some countries that condemn abortion. What is your opinion? Do you think colleges or schools should discuss this issue within the framework of their studies? Are there any projects related to this topic in Solsona’s schools?
The City Council does not work in this area in Solsona’s schools since all areas of work are set in accordance with the principles of the Ministry of Education.
Personally, I support abortion, although this is a difficult question and there are many nuances.
Let’s now talk about environmental protection and sustainable development. Does Solsona have an environmental action plan?
One initiative is the installation of photovoltaic panels in Solsona’s homes. In 2020, we will also implement the Door-to-Door program for the separate collection and disposal of waste. We are also beginning to gradually abandon the use of plastic in stores and will develop this idea and promote it among citizens too.
Speaking generally about the development of Solsona, in what areas, in your opinion, have you already achieved good results and what will you keep doing as mayor of the city?
We are working within the framework of this mandate on projects that reflect the will expressed in the ERC election program. There are four main areas: improving the quality of life of residents (it includes key issues such as promoting rental housing, social integration, promoting a gender equality policy and caring for those in need); city improvement (improving roads, removing architectural barriers); developing the territory under the jurisdiction of Local Development Agencies of Solsona and Cardona, and finally, improving the service of the local administration and caring for citizens.
What do you think about the independence of Catalonia? Are you a proponent or opponent of this idea? When do you think such a decision can be made, if at all possible?
I am a supporter of independence, but, above all, I am a democrat. The will of the majority of the population of Catalonia should be respected. I am not optimistic about resolving the issue of the independence of Catalonia in the short term. But sooner or later, Spain will have to admit that the right to make decisions is inevitable.