The Mayor of Aveiro, Mr. José Ribau Esteves : It is very important that citizens have an accurate picture of the importance of the European Union for their lives
I cannot help but support the creation of such a platform, being aware that the Union's work with its fellow citizens is publicized every day, in actions aiming proximity, awareness and clarification of the Europeans
- August 08, 2018 15:30
- Olya Georgieva
You have been the Mayor of Aveiro since 2013. Before that you were the mayor of Ílhavo for 15 years. How did you manage to keep the trust of the people?
There are two fundamental aspects that we must take into account when we are in the exercise of a position of political representation of our fellow citizens. As I always say, nothing is achieved without work, which means that every day we must take care of the good management of the municipality. On the other hand, nowadays people do not live with illusions, and the best way to gain trust is through being honest in your actions, sincere in your work, committed in pursuing good political and social causes and close to everybody.
The Mayor is the representative of his citizens, so proximity to those who give you their vote is fundamental to making the best political decisions for the present and the future of the society.
Aveiro is known as the Venice of Portugal because of the canals that cut the city. What else do you want to tell our readers about your city?
To visit or to live in Aveiro means to have the opportunity to experience a unique experience at all levels: the natural and unique beauty of the Aveiro lagoon urban canals, the salinas and the salt mines, our traditional boats "moliceiros", the gastronomy, the famous dessert “enguias aos ovos-moles” (eels to the eggs-moles), the Liquor de Alguidar and the most important one - the people of Aveiro.
We are the City of Channels, a Land with Horizons, made up of good, enterprising people who know how to innovate, maintain and preserve. Our main mission is to take care of our heritage and to give our children value, considering that the Aveiro lagoon is a very important inheritance that we want to continue taking good care of.
Recently you had a debate about projects of the Strategic Plan of Urban Development of the City of Aveiro, financed by the Center2020. Tell us more about ideas suggested by citizens and what you plan to do?
The Strategic Plan for Urban Development of the City of Aveiro (PEDUCA) is a priority commitment of the City Council of Aveiro (CMA) in the present municipal mandate 2017/2021 and has begun in the previous one (2013/2017) on a level of investment in terms of qualification and valorization of the City and of the Municipality of Aveiro, taking advantage of the opportunity of financing of the Community Funds of Portugal 2020.
After having been considered one of the three best projects in the Center Region and having signed a financial agreement in May 2016, guaranteeing 10 million Euros, which already increased to 11 million Euros per execution premium (from the so-called "accelerator" of the program) in December 2016, we are in full execution of PEDUCA, developing studies, projects and works within the framework of this agreement and the political options we assume.
The CMA leads and executes this process in a determined and committed way, having some important partners in some works, highlighting the University of Aveiro and improving the relationship between the City and the Campus of the UA, and the Institute of Housing and Urban Rehabilitation (IHRU), which will carry out the qualification works of the social neighborhoods Griné and Caião.
PEDUCA is implemented at the same time as we provide the instruments of support to urban rehabilitation within the framework of the ARU / Urban Rehabilitation Area, with mechanisms of financial support for the investments of public and private entities in the building of the area covered.
We also have a specific program called "Viva a Cidade"(Live the city).
"Viva a Cidade" intends to promote a culture of participation and active citizenship, particularly requiring the presentation of proposals limited to the Area of Urban Rehabilitation defined by the Municipality.
The program "Viva a Cidade" supports small-scale interventions for the qualification of spaces, through the involvement of the community in the revitalization and dynamization of the intervened areas, promoting their appropriation. It is an initiative that is integrated into the Intervention Type "Qualification of Urban Space in the Historic Center of Aveiro - Reinforcement of Urban Experiences" of the Integrated Urban Regeneration Action Plan (PARU) which is an integral part of PEDUCA. This program is thus supported by European Union funds through the C2020 Program and is co-financed with approximately 172 000 Euros by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
PEDUCA investments and the other public investment projects in its area of intervention amount to a total amount of around 25 million Euros.
In this context, we held the "PEDUCA Week" in March, inviting all citizens to take an active part in proposals and calls for attention, in order to make the most of this important intervention which is PEDUCA.
The Municipal Council of Youth aims to be a place where young people develop initiatives and projects in order to support and encourage the participation of other young people. Tell us more about what you have achieved so far in the sphere of the solution of youth?
The Municipal Council of Youth is undergoing a deep work of qualification and remodeling, where we will also change its designation for the Municipal Council of Citizenship.
This will be a space that from September on starts with a new dynamics, throughout workshops and activities dedicated and directed to citizenry and youth of this new time in which we live.
Our youth policy action strategy is a huge challenge, considering the phenomenon of globalization that social networks and digital platforms have accelerated, because we cannot think just about the youth of today, but we have to think about the youth of tomorrow and of the next day, in order to meet the needs of the youngest, who will be the decision makers of our municipality, of our country and of our Europe within 10 to 20 years.
In order to have a notion of how crucial it is to work on this axis, I would like to tell you that since the rehabilitation of the building for the installation of the Youth House in 1999, no major maintenance operation or building conservation was carried out, that we have in this area. More than renewing the physical building itself, this work has a very strong symbolism in the renewal of youth policy, which we have worked on in the previous mandate and we want to continue with the intense implementation of these new policies during the current mandate.
The City Hall of Aveiro has several projects related to youth, among which I can highlight three great actions: Aveiro Young Creator, which is a contest related to art that aim to promote young artists, the Vocational and Professional Fair, very important to show young people the possibilities of studies, closely related to the employment opportunities in our Municipality and the Young Municipal Assembly, crucial in developing the critical spirit of our younger citizens.
The new Science and Innovation Park of Aveiro is the only science and technology park built in continuity with a university and together with the 11 municipalities of the Region that are direct investors. Tell us more about this initiative and the results achieved so far?
The Science and Innovation Park (PCI) was inaugurated on March 6, 2018, having already in its central building the Business Incubator of the University of Aveiro (central node of the Business Incubator of the Region of Aveiro), with 150 people, 15 companies and 10 more coworking activities, and also 20 shared service companies with 40 people.
The Laboratory for Common Use of Information Technology, Communication and Electronics is already completely crowded, with 17 companies, where more than 150 people work. Another laboratory, dedicated to materials and the agribusiness, started with 4 companies and 30 people, and is growing with the arrival of new companies and projects.
The new PCI thrives in 35 hectares, already in the Municipality of Ílhavo and later on in the Municipality of Aveiro, representing an investment of about 20 million Euros, financed by the Community Funds and shared by its shareholders, constituting itself as a new and relevant capacity of the Region of Aveiro, being managed by a company led by the University of Aveiro with the close support of the Intermunicipal Community of the Region of Aveiro, and integrating another 17 shareholders (public and private entities).
You are also the vice president of the National Association of Municipalities. This month you managed to close a historic agreement for decentralization between municipalities and government. The government raises stakes and the chambers will now receive 7.5% of the VAT generated locally. What follow next from here?
The agreement between the Government and ANMP, referring the Framework Law Proposal and the Local Finance Law, and involving the agreement in the Parliamentary sphere with the PS and the PSD, will allow the municipalities to recover a part of the financial capacity lost in the last years in around of 200 million Euros in transfers from the State Budget, and have 75 million new revenue, in the scope of VAT.
We would like to have gone further, but we think this is a good step. Two numbers that are important: the first is the increase in transfers’ appropriations from the State Budget, which we assume as a part of the recovery of the financial capacity of the municipalities that has been lost in recent years. Another is the so-called new revenue, which is additional revenue from municipalities, which comes from 7.5% part of VAT revenue, and this component will be worth about 75 million Euros per year, from 2020 on.
Decentralization of competencies should be done without increasing public spending, for which the Decentralization Financing Fund will be created already in the State Budget for 2019, fed by the funds of the central administration ceasing to assume responsibility.
It is from this fund that the amounts to be contracted with the municipalities will be released in 21 decentralized areas and will be established in sectorial decrees, for most of which there is already an agreement between the Government and ANMP.
The Education and Health sectors are those with the greatest financial expression, with an almost closed agreement, which provides the municipalities with the management of school buildings and auxiliary staff, even in secondary education, as well as the primary care network in the area of health.
Culture is another sector in which the agreement for the transfer to the municipal administration of several buildings "registered" by the country is closed, as it happened on an experimental basis with the Museum of Aveiro | Santa Joana, which will now have a definitive character.
In the area of the Environment, the municipalities will have a seat in the consultative councils of reserves and natural parks and, in the case of the coastal areas, will receive management of port areas with no operational interest, which is very important for example for the municipality of Aveiro, taking into account the space management of the former port of Aveiro or the São Jacinto recreational watershed.
The work of the Decentralization Package will continue, between the Government, the ANMP and the Assembly of the Republic, finalizing the Framework Law, the amendment of the Local Finance Law and the set of Sectoral Law Decrees, with the aim of the legislative package being in force until the end of 2018 to begin its implementation in 2019.
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?
It is very important that citizens have an accurate picture of the importance of the European Union for their lives. As a member of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, I cannot help but support the creation of such a platform, being aware that the Union's work with its fellow citizens is publicized every day, in actions aiming proximity, awareness and clarification of the Europeans. You see, like all the projects that I have spoken about now that are of paramount importance to so many thousands of people, the European Union is a key piece of European funding to maintain and implement our projects.
It is an excellent idea, but one that should be supplemented by a direct discourse, on our territory, with our citizens and voters.