Joseba Asiron, Mayor of Pamplona
"The goal of the legislature is that children can learn Basque in any neighborhood of Pamplona"
  • After being mayor of Pamplona in the 2015-2019 legislature, he repeated for the second time in the mayor's office, after the best result of the municipal elections of Pamplona of the Abertzale left and the motion of censure in relation to the PSN. He says that the opportunity is good, but he underlines that the agreement has not come in itself. Many issues of the city have come to the table and, above all, it is clear: “The model is exportable.”
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Argazkia: Zoe Martikorena / ARGIA CC BY-SA
Argazkia: Zoe Martikorena / ARGIA CC BY-SA

Once in the city hall, you have to step on the hard soil from day to day. How are the first few weeks going?
Moving to town hall is like moving the Titanic. So we had a lot of work before. We had already prepared the groups and the first measures, how the first 100 days were going. Now the City Hall’s march is 100%.
In their first legislature, they did not need PSN. He has now reached the mayor with his agreement. I would say that in this model I see you more comfortable than in the previous one.

This was not easy, we had only five councillors – the majority fourteen – and we were very dependent. We are now eight councillors, we have another strength and we have gained experience. Furthermore, there is another maturity in the opposition and relations with the PSN are very good. However, we know that we will have hard times, because in many things we are very far away. At the moment, the environment of trust is 100%. Pamplona has left us the municipal X-ray we have, not the one we would like, and that is what we have to deal with.

The statements of Alex López, mayor of the PSN of Orkoien, in recent weeks, have been flying: he has considered services for the Basques as a privilege. You have had to negotiate the municipal programme with the SNP councillors. Do you see changes in them with regard to Basque?
The Basque country is one of the most distant points. We have a general principle: Pamplona has two languages and the Basque needs its place. We will have to explain this with pedagogy to the PSN, but we will also ask our people to understand that we have no absolute majority.

Housing will be one of the areas that you will prioritize, and one of the biggest problems is the constant increase of rentals. What can the City Hall do to reduce this rise? In
the last four years the right has done nothing about social housing. With the Salesians project, they have demonstrated that housing is an exclusive business for them. At the moment we have identified the buildable plots that exist by neighborhood and we believe that more than 1,000 homes can be built.

"There is another maturity in opposition and relations with the PSN are very good. However, we know that we will have hard times, because in many things we are very far away"

What are the general principles of this housing policy?Over the next eight years, the City Hall will directly or indirectly promote between 1,200 and 1,600 homes, prioritizing a social
rental housing (about 600) and two, 100 vacant homes rented by a foreign exchange. The minimum number of private Official Protection Homes will be 410 and a minimum of 220 for the rental of young people. The specific accommodations for youth emancipation are 82, although they can reach 100. In addition, two plots will be set up for collaborative accommodation for the elderly and supervised apartments, with a total of 75 people.

But these four issues are as important as the numbers. One, in direct cooperation with the Government of Navarra. Both sides are fully aware that to overcome the paralysis phase we need to work together and intensively. Two, create the youth emancipation housing, with a rental up to five years very small, so that our young people can become independent. Three, the increase in aid for rehabilitation will be significant in all neighborhoods, with an estimated 6 million per year. And four, the current park of 200 residential emergency homes will be expanded.

Will the housing census in Pamplona be carried out in this legislature?
I think last year the first count was made, according to which there are about 500 empty homes in Pamplona.

Photo: Zore Martikorena / ARGIA CC BY-SA

The Station project has been in dispute with the municipal government of UPN. What is to be done now?
UPN wanted to take everything down, we want to do something special. We would like to maintain the old bus station, andenas, area of windows, small social economy businesses there... There is also the covered plaza, between the Ensanche and the Casco Viejo, which is a treasure in a climate like Pamplona. The building also has strength in the collective memory as a 20th century building, and should be repaired and recovered for the construction of municipal housing. In addition, there is the famous clock, in which two people hide during the War of 36.

They want to renaturalize spaces in the city and create forests. Where? There
has been a great deal of intervention in the places of the city where there were trees in the last decades. With the existing underground parking policy these spaces have been greatly weakened, so we must preserve and guarantee them. Summers are being hard and every tree is a refuge. Therefore, the parking of the Plaza de la Cruz is suppressed. The Parque Forestal is projected to the south of the city, near the district of Lezkairu. We want to plant about 100,000 trees across the city in the coming years.

Is the Txantrea biomass plant, launched with the year, exportable to other neighborhoods?
Yes, of course, that would be our wish. However, this not only depends on us, but is a project shared between the Government of Navarra and the City of Pamplona.

"We want to plant about 100,000 trees across the city in the coming years."

There is currently an energy transition issue in all the institutions. Pamplona is also doing so. However, various sectors of society lack joint reflection on the social transformation this entails. How do you see the issue? When
we hear that every summer we live will be the freshest we will know, that is very worrying. Climate change was always going to come and now we've realized it's here and it's caught us. The deadlines have therefore ended. Renaturalization of spaces, sustainable mobility, public transport... There are many things to do, but the political generations of the coming years will already have to work on this emergency.

Economic growth has been the main model so far, and cities have also grown steadily. Now, however, we are also hearing more and more of the slowdown.
And we have to be prepared for growth. In the last eight years Pamplona has passed a barrier of 200,000 people and we know that we are very close to our borders. Our roof will depend on the municipality in which the Erripagaña neighborhood finally remains.

Globalization has led to strong competition from cities in recent decades. For some economic sectors there will probably be many shows or good events. Also for the citizens?
The concept of economic rector is there, and this is a subject recurrente.Existe a great competition between cities to position themselves in different areas, cultural shows, music, festivals... This benefits society in general, and in that context there are those who do business. The Sanfermines, for example, will not contribute much to urban trade, but they will contribute to hospitality, and many more things are for everyone.

On Thursdays and weekends thousands of people from all over Pamplona go to the bars of the Casco Viejo. This model is a clash with neighbors. Is it possible to turn this theme park model of bars?
It's hard. In addition, the bar atmosphere of some neighborhoods has weakened over the years and everything has focused on the Casco Viejo. But at the same time, the Casco Viejo de Pamplona is still alive as a neighborhood, and perhaps this is why the impact is greater than in other places. Neighbors in other neighborhoods also feel the Casco Viejo. So how can people's right to leisure be combined with that of neighbours? It's very difficult. However, the Old Town of Pamplona is very large and the problems are localized. Technically, domestic isolation can be improved, but we are dealing with a fundamentally educational problem, and we must understand that our leisure cannot become a problem for others. We will have to work from the City Hall to build consensus between sectors.

It seems to be a problem that comes in itself, but it is a consequence, among other things, of the expansion of numerous bars for many years.
Indeed, and that's why in 2015 we established a moratorium to cut that. We received great criticism, but the moratorium is still there, so I think it was a well-taken measure. There was a time when: At the time of the commercial decline of the Casco Viejo, some thought it was a good idea to replace shutters closed by bars. Over time it has been seen that this was not the way to solve the empty premises, but it has also been a great problem.

"In Navarra we must understand that the left
forces are condemned
to work together, if not always
the right will win"

The problem is also tourism, not least because it represents a significant increase in the price of housing. Should tourism in Pamplona be stopped? In
Pamplona the problem is not so crude, for example in comparison with San Sebastian, but we are at the moment to take action, and if measures are not taken now, ten to fifteen years would have a problem. We have in our favour that the neighborhood life of the Casco Viejo de Pamplona is still alive and strong.

Another complex area: children's schools in Basque. UPN rejected the work of your previous legislature and now there is only one Basque: Izartegi, Txantrea neighborhood. In the neighborhood of San Juan the opening of the Euskera line is requested for the next course, and in Mendillorri and Arrosadía there are also requests. Do you see it possible?
We have started working in the municipal government with the new year and are about to start the registration campaign. We don't have time to make changes in the next course. Our mission will not be the next course, but to design the panorama of the next twenty years. And for that we must first be aware of the existing needs to adapt supply and demand.
Undoubtedly, our goal is not only to satisfy the demand, but also to promote the use of Euskera. The law says so clearly and we are far from it. In any case, our objective of this legislature is: That the boy or girl who wants to learn Basque in any neighborhood of Pamplona can do so. That would be a huge achievement.

Why is it so important for the citizen of Pamplona that the City of Pamplona currently spends ten million euros on the reform of the Paseo de Sarasate?The Plaza
del Castillo and the Paseo de Sarasate are two symbolic spaces of Pamplona and probably the most loved ones for citizenship. The plaza del Castillo has been the object of aggressive intervention for years, but today it has the image of a plaza of the 21st century. Sarasate no. Sarasate is a boulevard in itself, but at this moment it is a trench separating the Casco Viejo from the Ensanche, and it should be the other way round, a spacious place and a meeting point, a space to give life to the city. Today is not that. The remodeling of the Sarasate promenade will be a discovery for the city and an important leisure space for the citizens. In addition, it will help to alleviate the Plaza del Castillo, where everyone now wants to celebrate all events.

I say this above all because today the means are very limited and the needs are great. For example, would it not be better to take advantage of these millions to transfer traffic from the roundabout of the San Jorge neighborhood to the subsoil?
Are you sure that that underground step is the solution there? That would not prevent noise, traffic, pollution...

Well, that's what I'm saying, because the neighbors there are asking for it, and they'll have the theme well studied.
... the problem of this roundabout is very complex and the solution will surely not come in one direction. As far as possible, a place should be built on the roundabout and although some of the traffic should go below, another part should be diverted. This, on the other hand, is not easy, because the most natural solution would be from where the pools are currently located, but that place cannot be touched... That is why we are going to promote a competition of ideas, and surely the solution will also be of various branches.

Photo: Zore Martikorena / ARGIA CC BY-SA

The Monument to Falls also left it in the debate of ideas in the last legislature. It is a historic request to knock down in many sectors of Pamplona, but that was not done and is now there. Discarded the demolition, why can its use go?
The knock down is not ruled out. In its day we sow a lot with the subject, with the change of name and with the excrement. In the end, we did a very enriching international competition and left six finalist projects. There are several proposals, from the demolition of the building to giving new meaning to the building, and all the possibilities are open. The next steps will be to collect the best of these projects and then, through a participatory process, decide on the part of the citizens.

"The next steps

will be to collect the best of the six projects and then, through a participatory process, decide the citizenship"

EH Bildu and PSN are taking a tour, especially from 2019. Is it a forced trajectory – in the City of Pamplona together in the opposition, they support the Foral Government… – or is it also a joint strategic reflection? In
the Basque Country we no longer live the situation of the years 1980-90. This has helped a lot. So far it was not natural. The sociology of Pamplona shows that 16 out of 27 councillors are progressive, so it would be normal to reach an agreement. The right has made good use of this situation and, although in a minority it has reached 100% of power.
In addition, other components of the economic situation contribute to this situation. For example, the current orientation of the PSOE in the State helps, that of the PSN is not two decades ago either, and in the City of Pamplona it is also. The 2019 “Agur Asiron” was the lowest moment in this relationship, but one weekend we mourned and from Monday we got to work knowing we had to work with the PSN. And then, the four years after the opposition have been key because we have combined synergies and we have come to a shared diagnosis: That Pamplona could not go on like that. But what is happening in Pamplona, above all, has come from a logic of Pamplona.

It could be thought that if this legislature in Pamplona goes well, this will greatly change the municipal landscape of the future in Navarra.
Yes, I believe that the model that has happened here is perfectly exportable, both at municipal level and in other institutions. But since we have worked with the PSN the shared diagnosis in the city hall, in other places they will have to do it, because that doesn't come from itself. In Navarre we must understand that the left-wing forces are condemned to work together, if not always the right will win.

The photos of the mayors of Pamplona are at the reception of the City Hall. In the image, Yolanda Barcina, Enrique Maya and Joseba Asiron. (Photo: Zore Martikorena / ARGIA CC BY-SA)