Barcelona, chosen as European Capital of Democracy 2023-2024

19/01/2023 13:10 h

Innovació Democràtica

According to the assessment made public today, Barcelona convinced the jury with different innovative projects, including the Decidim platform for citizen participation, developed in 2016 and which has been implemented in hundreds of cities around the world, and the city’s new Canódromo – Digital and Democratic Athenaeum. Barcelona also presented the participatory process related to the Superblocks as an urban transformation project that has counted on citizen participation to consult, deliberate and design the spaces.

The city also included the participatory budgets, the most participative process in the city, with more than 70,000 people registered to decide the destination of 30 million euros in investments in the districts; and the deliberative citizens’ assemblies, such as the Fòrum Jove and the Climate Assembly.

The European Capital of Democracy means that from September to August 2024, Barcelona will host a programme of events and activities aimed at strengthening democracy in Europe, organised jointly with various European citizens’ organisations.

The main promoter of the initiative is The Innovation in Politics Institut GmbH, a European organisation whose main objective is to promote democratic innovation and democratic strengthening in Europe and internationally. The initiative is supported by the Council of Europe and the European Commission, as well as European actors seeking to deepen democracy, such as the Democratic Society, RSA, the German Marshall Foundation, and a score of other relevant actors.

In a video broadcast during the meeting with the organisation, which was held in the Saló de Cent, Marija Pejcinovic Buric, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, stressed that local governments “have always been the authority closest to the people’ and therefore ‘are the place where ideas on democratic participation must grow. The European Capital of Democracy not only recognises excellence in this sense, but also wants it to be an example for the rest of the cities”.

Dubravka Suica, Vice-President of the European Commission, underlined the emergence of these initiatives “in these uncertain times for European democracy. After a decade of various crises and attacks against European values, it is time to join forces, to fight and connect innovative ideas in democracy and to make them part of the changes of our time. The European Capital of Democracy will create an exciting space for the exchange of best practices in democracy and new forms of innovation in this field can be experimented”.

Marc Serra, in turn, stressed the importance of the recognition for the “good work done in terms of democratic participation in Barcelona, from the climate and youth assemblies, such as the participatory process around the Superblocks”. “In the context of the growth of the extreme right and war in Europe, our thesis is that the best way to face these challenges is not with a recentralisation of power, but with more and better citizen participation”, he concluded.

The event was also attended by the representative of the expert jury Antonella Vallmorbida, who highlighted the leap forward Barcelona has made in citizen participation and the democratisation of decisions, “implementing a high degree of professionalisation and ambition in the voting systems, which allow no one to be left out in the co-creation and co-production of city policies”. Vallmorbida cited the creation of the Superblocks as an example of a participatory process. “Barcelona has democratisation and participation in its DNA”, he concluded.

Mayor Ada Colau told the organisers of the initiative that she was proud that Barcelona had become the first European Capital of Democracy. “In a global context in which hate speech and authoritarianism are on the rise, cities must be the place to work together with citizens to strengthen democracy. We see this challenge as an opportunity to make progress in democratic innovation, to cooperate with other cities and to ensure that neighbours have an active role in public policy,” he concluded.

Translated with (free version)