Manuel Valls backs local vote on issues such as tourism and security
Former French prime minister hoping to become mayor of the Catalan capital to run under the slogan 'Barcelona, European capital'
Former French prime minister and candidate for Barcelona mayor in next year's local election, Manuel Valls, has revealed some of his priorities for the city in an interview on Tuesday with the Catalan News Agency (ACN).
In the interview, Valls, who is standing in the election in May under the slogan 'Barcelona, European capital', was critical of his rival, mayor Ada Colau, accusing her of governing the city "with ideology alone," adding that Barcelona residents want "leadership."
Valls said he was open to holding the referendum passed recently by city hall, but challenged Colau's local government to include questions on security and tourism. "I'm interested in anything that is about consulting people and listening," Valls told ACN.
The ballot, which will be held before the end of 2019, but after the May election, will give Barcelona residents the chance to vote on two questions: whether the city's water services should be managed by the council, and whether a square should be renamed.
"Without security there is neither freedom nor coexistence"
Manuel Valls · Candidate for Barcelona mayor
Yet, Valls dismissed the water services debate as "not a priority" and insisted that security is more important. The candidate says that the anti-riot unit of the local Guàrdia Urbana police should be kept because "maintaining public order might require this type of intervention."
Security an "urgent problem," says Valls
In fact, the former French politician said that the Guàrdia Urbana should be increased by a thousand extra officers, because Barcelona residents consider the lack of security an "urgent problem." "Without security there is neither freedom nor coexistence," he said.
Valls also addressed one of the subjects causing most concern among city residents, the housing issue. The candidate said the city authorities need to negotiate with the private sector to "to build more and more quickly," and he called for more social housing.
He also criticized Colau's handling of the social housing issue, in not working with the private sector. "It was Colau's main objective and she has not been able to fix this problem," he claimed, accusing the mayor of lacking a "general strategy" for housing.
Valls served as France's prime minister from 2014 to the end of 2016, going on to come second in the country's presidential election in 2017. The son of Barcelona-born painter, Xavi Valls, the candidate was born in the Catalan capital but grew up in France. Valls announced his intention to run for mayor in September.