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Ernest Maragall brought his long political career to a close this Friday. As he announced, by surprise, in the municipal plenum last November, the politician who has until now been leader of the municipal group of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) in the Barcelona city council took part for the last time in this Friday's December council meeting, where he took the floor affirming that his time at the Barcelona City Council "has been a privilege". In an emotional speech, in which he almost shed a tear, Maragall had words for his brother Pasqual, and for the reasons that brought him back to the city council.

"This is not quite a farewell", said Maragall, who explained that his return to the city council, in the ERC team, had to do "with October 2017 and the state of emergency that Catalonia has gone through since then", but he pointed out that he was leaving at a time of political change: "I am leaving with an amnesty won through votes". "I've had Barcelonitis for many years", Maragall said, adding that "once I promised myself that I would never say 'it's been an honour', but being part of this house has been a prolonged privilege and with many realizations". Maragall made use of his speech to assert: "Let's be daring enough to address small demands: decide if Barcelona is subject or object, if it is the stage or the protagonist, if it should be the capital of our country or the second city of the state". "I leave convinced that Barcelona will know how to find its way", were his last words.

Long applause

The farewell speech was followed by a long round of applause and then the evaluations that came to him from the rest of the parties. The first to speak was Xavier Trias, on behalf of TriasXBCN, who referred to him as "friend" and summarized the times they had coincided politically, such as when they worked together on the Barcelona Municipal Charter. "I regret that political pacts against nature meant that you were not able to be mayor and this has been repeated and we have not been able to govern together, I regret it, it would have been an exciting chapter in our lives", said Trias. Laia Bonet, on behalf of the PSC, recalled that Maragall "has been in all the battles". Ada Colau thanked him for his work as technical designer for the council and showed him her "highest appreciation".

From his own party, his successor, Elisenda Alamany, indicated that "Ernest Maragall's political value is to transcend the ideas he represents", to "always put the interests of the city first". Dani Sirera, of the PP, pointed out that Maragall's speech showed their political differences, but pointed out that "Barcelona unites you and me". Gonzalo de Oro-Pulido, from Vox, said that "from the ideological antipodes, I wish him the best in his future life". Finally, mayor Collboni took the floor, telling the ERC councillor that he wanted to "recognize the work you have done that transcends the political projects you have been involved in", and recalling his period in Socialist ranks. Ernest Maragall was a member of the Catalan Socialist Party for over 30 years, and served in Socialist-led administrations in Barcelona city (including under his brother, Olympic-era mayor Pasqual Maragall) and Catalonia, before leaving the party in 2012 over its opposition to Catalan independence.    

40 years of public service

In addition to being the Barcelona municipal leader of the ERC in recent years and the election-night winner of the 2019 municipal elections, although not then voted by councillors as mayor, Maragall has also been a member of the Catalan Parliament at various stages (2003-2004, 2006, 2010-2012, 2018-2020 and 2021- 2023), and a Member of the European Parliament (2014-2016). He was Catalan education minister (2006-2010) under the presidency of José Montilla and foreign minister (2018) in the Quim Torra administration. All in all, almost 40 years as a public servant that allow him to have, a few weeks before his 81st birthday, a broad perspective of what political life has been like in Barcelona and Catalonia. "Now was a good time" to leave, Maragall told a few weeks ago.

ernest maragall elisenda alamany foto blanca blay acn
Ernest Maragall with Elisenda Alamany, new ERC leader in Barcelona / Photo: Blanca Blay - ACN

Elisenda Alamany takes over from Maragall

Maragall's farewell makes way for a restructuring in the ERC municipal group. The until-now number two and spokesperson, Elisenda Alamany, takes over and will be the new leader of the ERC team in the city council, while Jordi Castellana will be the new spokesperson and Jordi Coronas the deputy spokesperson. Likewise, Maragall's resignation will lead to the entry as councillor of the next person on the ERC electoral list, Rosa Suriñach, who was already a councillor at the end of the previous mandate.