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Clara Luquero has been the mayor of Segovia since 2014, Source: Ayuntamiento de Segovia

Clara Luquero: The correct management of the European Recovery Funds can be decisive for our future

Clara Luquero: The correct management of the European Recovery Funds can be decisive for our future

An interview with the Mayor of Segovia (Spain)

Clara Luquero has a degree in Geography and History from the Autonomous University of Madrid. In 2003 she took office as Councilor for Culture and Tourism and as Deputy Mayor of the City of Segovia. In the 2007-2011 term, in addition to being Councilor for Culture, she was responsible for the Candidacy of Segovia to the European Capital of Culture 2016.

From June 2011 and until the end of the legislature, she was briefly an MP in the Spanish Parliament. On 5 April 2014, she became the first female mayor of Segovia, a position that she currently holds.

Madam Mayor, how would you describe Segovia in your own words?

Segovia is a beautiful city and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1985. The Roman Aqueduct, the Lady of the Cathedrals (as the Segovia Cathedral is popularly known due to its elegance), the Alcázar that rises from the rock and rises like a fairytale castle, the Romanesque churches, the Renaissance old quarter, the Casa de la Moneda, the banks of the Eresma and Clamores rivers, the greenery from where you can see the skyline of the city… All of them seduce the gaze of those of us who have the privilege of living in Segovia and, even more, of those who visit.

Our rich gastronomy also adds to the attractions of what is a safe, welcoming city - a city made to be enjoyed.

What is the city's economy mainly based on? How has the COVID pandemic affected your operation?

Segovia is a city brimming with art and culture that, until 2019, registered record numbers of visitors, accounting for an average of 2 million tourists a year; a number which, when we talk about a city of just 52,000 inhabitants, shows the importance of the tourism sector for our economy.

Then, overnight, as a result of the pandemic, we saw a large part of the local economy collapse, given that it was highly dependent on national and international tourism. After all, there is no tourism sector that can withstand restrictions and closures.

And we must bear in mind that, when we talk about tourism, it’s not just hotels or hospitality ... we also talk about tourist guides, taxi drivers, the cultural sector, and a long etcetera. Too many economic activities were affected in our very core, and in a very intense way at that.

How does your City Council use the EU recovery funds?

In mid-2021, we adapted the structure of the local Government and created a council department that, specifically, but always in coordination with the rest of the municipal areas, would be the unit responsible for promoting and coordinating the development of the Urban Agenda and the projects to be financed from European funds for economic recovery.

From the beginning, we understood that we were facing a unique opportunity to contribute decisively to the development and advancement of Segovia. Here was a chance to achieve a municipality whose goals and principles are adapted to the Sustainable Development Goals in order to foster a more just, resilient and sustainable city.

Naturally, always with the aim of promoting job creation in the wake of the economic crisis (derived from the health crisis that has hit us so hard) and promoting sustainable growth.

I am convinced that the correct management of these European Recovery Funds can be decisive for the change in the productive and social model of key issues for our future, such as new modes of sustainable mobility, the reduction of emissions or the commitment to sustainability and green industry. It also helps us to move towards a society, which is more digital, more ecological, more cohesive from a social and territorial point of view, and, of course, more egalitarian.

What is your opinion on the potential decentralization of government institutions in Spain?

Not only does it seem right to me, but the Segovia City Council Plenary, as the collegiate body of maximum municipal representation, has recently approved express support for the administrative de-concentration policy promoted by the Government of Spain, understanding it as a first step to combat the depopulation and territorial imbalances of our country.

In this sense, we have addressed, both the Central Government and the Junta de Castilla y León (regional government), to show the predisposition of the City of Segovia to host permanent headquarters or sub-offices of public companies and agencies that are dependent on the General State and the Regional Autonomous Administrations.

I would like to express my gratitude to the Prime Minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, who recently announced that the city of Segovia, within the framework of the said administrative de-concentration plan, will host the future National Centre for Innovation, Technification and High Performance in Vocational Training dependent on the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training.

How prepared is Segovia to host this type of institution? What importance does the city’s geographical position halfway between Madrid and Valladolid play?

Very much so, given that Segovia has a particularly attractive geographic position, which is almost "strategic" for business logistics purposes. We are connected to both Madrid - 28 minutes away by AVE (high-speed train) and just 50 minutes by car, and Valladolid - 35 minutes by AVE and just over an hour by road.

We have also been preparing the city for some time to host not only business infrastructures but also institutional ones. As such, the current ‘Strategic and Innovation Plan 2018-2023’ presents Segovia as an unrivalled hub for the implementation of new projects, because it is an ideal city for living, innovating and undertaking projects.

We, as residents, have the challenge of combining our majestic past and our incomparable historical heritage, with a future as a city that generates opportunities and well-being for its inhabitants.

How green is the city of Segovia? Can you tell us more about the Biodiversity Gardens initiative or a similar one?

The city of Segovia has been developing for decades a ‘Green Plan’ for the ecological and landscape restoration of our urban environment. The two river ravines that enclose the old town, the Eresma and the Clamores, have been cleaned.

At present, we are also in the middle of the recovery phase of a third site, the Tejadilla valley, with a view to presenting an attractive natural environment in parallel to our heritage, cultural and artistic offers.

In the same way, we are committed to promoting urban biodiversity with the program that we call "Biodiversity Gardens". This is a project that allows us to promote numerous activities, which foster biodiversity in the largest possible number of green areas in our city, such as parks and gardens owned and managed by municipalities, private gardens for public use of neighbourhood communities and schoolyards.

You have been the mayor of Segovia since 2014. Are there any persistent challenges that you would like to resolve before your term ends?

Certainly, there are always pending challenges, and some will see their end sooner rather than later. I am convinced, for one, that in the coming months, the Centre for Innovation and Business Development, better known as CIDE, will become a reality and will host numerous projects that stimulate the Segovian economy.

It will allow us to promote the development of new information and communications technologies (ICTs), creating an ecosystem of innovation and collaboration. An ecosystem where the public administration, society, universities and companies, will interconnect to create a melting pot of innovation in the city.

The Centre we are talking about is a large building, with a total constructed area of ​​8,500m², four floors above ground and a basement - built at the expense of the municipal treasury. It has been designed to diversify the local economy, so dependent, as we pointed out at the beginning of the interview, on the tourism sector, and to transform Segovia into an even more attractive city - a unique and open space that welcomes the local business fabric and attracts new and modern start-up projects.

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