Bilbao, Basque Country
June 14, 2006
Bilbao is a wonderful city located in Northern Spain, which is part of Bizkaia or Basque Country. I have known about the Basque region because their language is always a case study in anthropological linguistics. It is an Indo-European language over 7000 years old, but it doesn't have the connecting branches like the Germanic or Romance languages. The language is the heart of Basque identity. The area is bi-lingual with signs in Spanish and Euskara.
Out coordinator Paul Ortega is awesome and has set up a wonderful program for us. We met with the Lehendakari (President) of the Basque Government yesterday. Some of the main objectives of his government are:
Negotiating more autonomy from the Spanish government. Bizkaia is considered an "Autonomous Community" in Spain. They control their own taxation, police force, and administration. They send anywhere from 10-18% of their tax revenue back to Madrid, but the rest they use in Bizkaia. They had proposed a new agreement to allow for access to EU bodies, but it has been rejected by Spain. This is the main political problem.
Start exporting Basque companies to China and India. The region has the second highest GDP in Spain and is 25% higher than EU average. In the 90s, they shifted from an industrial base to a service economy. They are not looking for foreign investment, but rather be the investor in Asia. This is in contrast to Solvakia and a lesser extent Hamburg.
Innovation is the metric by which all government and private industries and institutions are measured. The government supports "sustainable human development" through setting up educational and industry clusters.
After meeting the Basque president we visiting the seat of the Basque parliament in Gernika, of the Picasso painting fame, and the Gernika Museum of Peace. The tradition of democracy in Bizkaia goes back further than the Magna Carta. More later...