Valencia the European political economy (Prytherch, 2003).

Valencia is suffering from a crisis without precedents, a combination of
the excesses of the deregulation of the financial system, the flexibilization
of the Spanish urban legislation and the burst of the real-estate’s speculative
bubble.

It has been sustained by many authors (CITE AUTHORS) that in this case
study, there is an overlaying of three crisis: the international, the Spanish
and the Valencian, with different factors but cumulative.

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The Valencian Country is one of the autonomous communities that has suffered
and is suffering the most the consequences of the crisis, which can be explained
not only by the excessive investment and overestimation of big urban
developments, as well as in the construction and real estate sector, but also
by the lack of proactive politics that led to a financial debt that sustained
the politics of grandeur and GDP growth rate.

 

·        
In terms of globalisation as
opportunity and city branding, in 1982, the ‘new’ autonomous Comunitat
Valenciana wanted to transform its capital, Valencia, in terms of physical
structure as well as their national and international image. Valencia was set
to be an attractive leisure destination (Luna
García, 2003) with sport Mega-events and the City of Arts and Science,
becoming synonyms with a ‘futuristic, global and modern city’.

 

·        
The City of arts and Science was conceived from a political point of
view that perceived the city of Valencia as the capital to the new region of
Comunitat Valenciana as well as a potentially strategic position within a newly
re-scaled Spain and Europe. The European administration was in favor of
supporting a new growing center in the southern part of Europe, as Valencia is
said to occupy a strategic position in the economic macro-region or
euro-region: ‘The Mediterranean arc’, with important connections to Madrid to
the west and Barcelona to the north. These planning efforts are driven by the
wider ‘re-scaling’ or ‘re-territorialization’ of the European political economy
(Prytherch, 2003).

 

·        
Regarding the myth of
globalization is good for everyone, this Mega-events infrastructure was
built near the port, next to historical and working-class neighborhoods with
clear industrial heritage, imposing a ‘pseudo-modernity consisting of lofts,
boutiques and luxury discos’ (Del Romero Renau
& Trudelle, 2011).

 

·        
Valencia can be classified as a Mediterranean (sprawl like) city. The 20th
and 21st century were accompanied by massive urbanization due to
economic growth. Private foreign investment, the construction industry and the
tourist industry fueled the economy, and economic growth and urban growth
became synonyms for Valencia (García, 2010).
This period of economic growth (1994-2007) led to private
debt growth due to unnecessary infrastructure and projects (City of Arts and
Science, Castellon Airport, Formula One street circuit). The
city has been slowing down and trying to digest its growth.

 

 

In other regions of Spain, such as Madrid and the Basque Country, the
crisis has impacted in lower levels, as a more well-balanced growth model has
been implemented. On the contrary, on the Mediterranean coast, and specially in
Valencia, negative consequences of neoliberalism affected the city. As Harvey
states in The Right of the city (2008); “the results of continued reinvestment
is the expansion of surplus production at a compound rate—hence the logistic
curves (…) attached to the history of capital accumulation, paralleled by the
growth path of urbanization under capitalism”. In a similar way, urbanism in
Valencia was guided by neoliberalist schemes where the aim was to continue with
the reinvestment in the construction market, towards capital accumulation and
GDP growth. The rampant development excessive investment in housing and in pharaonic
architecture led to the overcapacity of the housing sector and the subsequent crash
of the real-estate market that resulted in precarious levels of employment.

The abrupt burst of the real estate
bubble, and subsequent crisis, left a considerable amount of Valencia’s
population without work. In 2016, unemployment rates in the Valencian Community
was 45,5%, reaching as high as 56,7 in 2014, in the populational group between
15 and 24 years old, and 20,2% in people between 20 and 65 years old, in
contrast with the EU’s average of 8,4% (Eurostat, 2017). Furthermore, unemployment
has expanded to the most educated youth and, as stated by Gonzalo Romeu; “the
delay in entering the workforce risks scarring a generation of young people, and
argues that those who can should move abroad if they need to”. As a
consequence, the number of educated youth in Valencia, one the most heavily
impacted parts of Spain, have turned to seeking work abroad has increased since
the 2008 financial downturn (Bygnes, 2015), as obtaining tertiary education fails
to assure job opportunities.  

Regardless of the high unemployment rates, immigration was still
constant after the years of the crisis. Nevertheless, as of 2011, the amount of
foreign arrivals in Valencia started to decrease considerably. Similar with the
youth flight to other regions of Spain and countries in Europe, immigrants have
started to leave the city.

 

The city has been slowing down and trying
to digest its growth.

In terms of sustainable cities, this implies a better commitment of aiming
towards cities characterized by supporting the shift towards a low-carbon
economy, preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource
efficiency as well as promoting the cultural and architectural heritage, and
promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination.

Transition to a new economic production model, as in a way out of a
crisis territory holds a valuable position, as it is the origin of many agglomeration
and network economies, as well as in microeconomic politics, regional and local
government are crucial.

Also, the inevitable shift from the construction industry to services in
a more sustainable and beneficial way of approaching tourism, less stationary
and driven by megaevent and pharaonic architecture, and more respectful with
the environment.

 

Nowadays the Polytechnic University of
Valencia has become one of the most prestigious universities in Spain,
according to its technology, investigation, several degrees offering a close
relation with some the most important universities in the world such as
Cambridge, Oxford
and Harvard. Most faculties and colleges are based in the city of Valencia.

The government has been implementing
integration and coexistence policies for immigrants and has approved the
“Valencian Programme for inclusion and social cohesion” for the 2017-2020
period. Also, the Valencian Community will create a municipal network to host
refugees, which showcases not only its politics of connectivity but solidarity
in a relational/global sense of place. From a bottom-up approach, Valencia
Ciutat Refugi is an NGO in the city of Valencia that started as a community
initiative, led by civic actors and is now part of the Spanish Commission for
Refugee Assistance (national scale). – La Nostra Ciutat, el teu refugi project
aims to support the integration, awareness and inclusion of refugees living in
the city. It is a local response to the global situation of humanitarian crisis
that requires that cities, institutions and civil society work together towards
facing this challenge. The city of Valencia is now embedded in a network of
cities of refuge all over Spain and Europe. This national network was proposed
and started by the mayor of Barcelona and includes big and important cities
such as Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and Zaragoza, as well as small
municipalities with a total of 25 cities registered in the initiatives. Also,
the mayor of Barcelona and the registered cities, are urging European cities to
join this network of solidarity, alongside cities like Paris in France, and
Lesbos in Greece. 

 

During the
crisis period, the Spanish economy was severely affected, and the Valencian
Community (VC) suffered considerably. Consequently, the Valencian Community was
in need of an alternative way to support itself and is now working towards
sustainable urban and rural tourism. Currently with a low weight but with a
great potential, it is set to promote the value of urban and rural environment
and to connect the important natural and cultural spaces in the city.  

Many efforts have been made by the Generalitat of Valencia to bring life
to the city center -one of the biggest in Europe. Also, regarding the European cities as cities of public
transport, initiatives such as the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan which
includes pedestrian and cycling friendly streets, and the improvement of public
transport are being implemented. These projects are considered a holistic
approach to mobility and are part of the ‘Civitas Initiative’ for cleaner and
better transport in cities, co-financed by the EU.

 

A
clear example of a public policy in the city is Valencia’s Metropolitan Green
Ring Cycling Road, one of the priority actions to be developed under the
European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2014-20 programme. The ERDF focuses
in the reinforcement of economic and social cohesion within the regions of the
European Union. This cohesion policies aim to promote more balanced and
sustainable urban planning. Furthermore, the implementation of these green
infrastructures generates new employment opportunities, which will help the
economy of the VC. 

The
biking circuit is being developed under the ERDF objective of “Preserving and
protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency”. Article 5(6)(d)
of the ERDF Regulation quotes that “The ERDF shall support … protecting and
restoring biodiversity and soil and promoting ecosystem services, including
through Natura 2000, and green infrastructure”.  Figure 1 provides evidence that the VC has a
large share of biogeographical sites in the network of nature protection areas
in the territory of the European Union (Natura 2000); therefore, the project
also involves the European Environment Agency and pictures green infrastructure
as “key tools to build climate resilient cities, improve well-being, maintain
urban biodiversity and reach social and educational objectives as well”. 

This
thematic priority (TO6: Environment and resource efficiency) is assigned with
10% of the ERDF for the VC and supports sustainable urban development. This
specific project is organized by the Generalitat of the Valencian Community
with a 34,8-million-euro budget and is partially (50%) financed by the EU. 

The
planned bike paths will structure an axis between the city of Valencia and the
surrounding municipalities of the metropolitan region (see Figure 2 and Figure
3), allowing longer distance trips. The objective is to boost tourism in a
sustainable way and connect with national parks, biogeographical sites and
municipalities. Moreover, it is set to promote green and sustainable means of
transport while emphasizing the importance and encouraging the conservation and
protection of natural and cultural heritage. 

Furthermore,
the Green Ring will connect with the EuroVelo 8, a cycling circuit to be
developed in the Mediterranean coast (see Figure 4). This bike route will bind regions
and member states (see Figure 5), and is organized by the European Cyclists’
Federation and co-financed by the EU under the preparatory action “Sustainable
Tourism”. 

The
EuroVelo project is part of the ERDF MED (Mediterranean coast) programme, a cross-border,
transnational and interregional co-operation within the EU. This territorial
cooperation involves countries and regions such as Croatia, Cyprus, the
southern region of France, Greece, North West Italy, Malta, Slovenia, and
southern and eastern Spain, where the Valencian Community is located. The
programme includes low carbon strategies, as well as the promotion and
protection of natural and cultural resources in the Mediterranean. The main
objective pursued is to increase sustainable means of transport by doubling the
share of urban plans involving low carbon transportation. The programme is set
to promote sustainable tourism in MED coastal regions by 10% through
cooperation among nations through integrated planning.