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Mayor of Leiria, Mr. Raul Castro : Our strategy of modernizing the city of Leiria is based precisely on preserving our cultural memory and historic heritage

"I believe that this platform can be an excellent bridge for the dialogue between citizens of different countries of the European Union and raise awareness."

  • July 24, 2018 14:18
  • Author Olya Georgieva
Medium regi%c3%a3o de leiria
Source: Região de Leiria

You have been the mayor of Leiria since 2009.  How did you manage to gain the trust of the people?

I believe that with the work we have developed over the years, not only me but the team that supports me, is the reason why we have conquered and consolidated the trust of the Leirians.

I think that those elected should make a strong commitment to dialogue, transparency and openness to participation of the community in the decision making for a greater impact on the future of the territory. Only in this way, it is possible to conquer and consolidate the confidence of the electorate.

City Council of Leiria is among the 10 most transparent municipalities in the country and is the first district capital, emerging in the top 10 out of 308 municipalities. How did you achieve these indicators and results?

I think we have been able to convey, throughout these years, a set of values ​​to that day by day are leading the team to good actions in the municipality of Leiria. Ensuring transparency in decision-making processes is one of the basics of our code of ethics.

Leiria offers its visitors all kinds of activities - cultural, sports, religious, gastronomic tours and others. Tell us more about the opportunities of tourism in your city.

I invite you to start your visit of the municipality of Leiria from our splendid castle, a monumental landmark of the city’s history. From the royal palace you can contemplate your walk through the city that awaits you and challenges you to stroll through its winding streets, squares, monuments and museums.

To get to know the history of Leiria and its people, it is imperative to visit the Leiria Museum, now in a renovated space, as well the Center of Intercultural Dialogue of Leiria, where we value the presence of three important religions in Leiria over the centuries: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Paper Mill Museum, the Municipal Agromuseu D. Julinha, and m|i|mo - the museum of moving image complete the script of a city that bets more and more on culture as a differentiating brand.

After the visit to the city, we invite our visitors to discover the traditions of our parishes and villages, where we will offer tradition, quality of life and a gastronomy of excellent quality.

In a tour of the municipality it is mandatory to visit Pedrógão beach, which presents a triple recognition of quality, with the Blue Flags, Accessible Beach and Gold Quality.

This beach is an authentic “island” between the pine forest of Leiria and the Atlantic Ocean, which offers an extensive beach, the benefits of iodine, the typical fish Arte Xávega and tranquility to the visitors.

Leiria is a city that mixes medieval and modern influences. How do you manage to preserve the history of your city and at the same time to modernize it?

Our strategy of modernizing the city of Leiria is based precisely on preserving our cultural memory and historic heritage.

We have developed this action not only in the cultural field, with the renovation of our museological spaces, but also of all the public space of the city.

We are investing heavily in improving mobility and upgrading urban space, which is a strong incentive for private investment in the rehabilitation of real estate in the historic center, which is happening at an unprecedented level.

We are also investing in attracting investments, talents and technologies, such as the creation of Startup Leiria and the development of a business center to attract investment in the area of ​​innovation and digital.

The Municipality of Leiria bets a lot on youth. The city is undertaking many projects and programs for young people - the "Valorize you" program, the Computational Thinking project and more. Tell us more about what you have achieved so far in this direction and what you plan to do?

The youth area is a banner of this governance. We can not project the future or meet the challenges of a globalized world without human resources with a high level of preparation.

In this sense, we have requalified our entire school park while investing in projects that make a difference in the formative process of our youth. We assume that education plays a decisive role for our collective future and we want the new generations to be the most qualified ever.

We aim to create a school of values, through building citizenship skills, promoting students participation in public life, stimulating a debate of ideas, projecting its civic and human dimension.

Please share with us some other interesting projects or good practices of your municipality. How do you plan to fund them?

Although not noticeable, a real revolution is underway in this county, which will decisively change Leiria for the better.

I can list some examples that are giving a scale to this change: the construction of a new garden at the gates of Leiria which is already in progress, the installation of the Citizen's Shop in the center of the city, the construction of the Villa Portela Arts Center, a Business Center in the north of the stadium, the rehabilitation of the Municipal Market, the reconstruction of the castle of Leiria and the construction of a mechanical access to this monument, the construction of the first inclusive sports pavilion in the country, extension of the cycleway network of the main arteries of the city, and the creation of industrial zones in the less developed areas of the municipality.

In addition to these investments, the Municipality of Leiria aims to lay the foundations for the creation of an industry in the cultural area in this territory in the help its candidature for European Capital of Culture in 2027. We believe that our project will have a structural impact in this territory and that the culture will become the identity mark of the region.

To implement these investments, the municipality intends to take advantage of all the funding opportunities granted by the European Union, a strategy coupled with a strict management of resources available to the Municipality, which has enabled us, in the last nine years, to withdraw the Municipality from a situation of enormous financial fragility.

What do you think about a unified platform for European municipalities and its main goal to make and keep European citizens better informed about what is taking place in the European Union?  How can this platform be useful for your projects?

I believe that this platform can be an excellent bridge for the dialogue between citizens of different countries of the European Union and raise awareness.

I hope that this platform can also be a space for sharing good practices, with the benefit of our communities.