Ernest Urtasun, the green MEP who resisted returning to Spain and will now defend cultural rights

For years he refused to return to Spanish politics. Unlike other politicians, who see Brussels as a way station in his career, Ernest Urtasun made the European Parliament his home. The Commons MEP said that he was ‘not’ going to be on lists in Barcelona and even refused to be a minister with the first coalition government. It was not until last June, with the emergence of Yolanda Díaz’s Sumar platform, that after half a life in politics – most of it, in the community capital -, she decided to attend a general election that is now They have catapulted him to the Council of Ministers.

At 41 years old, Urtasun, who will be the new Minister of Culture, can show off a career as a parliamentarian in which his colleagues, but also his rivals – MEPs of different stripes report this – value him as a politician who engages in dialogue. . It may be due to his training as a career diplomat, a profession that requires a talent that has also enabled him to navigate and always maintain good relations with the different families – often in conflict with each other – of the left-wing confluences. . “He is very well connected and it is very difficult to find someone with whom he gets along badly,” say those who have shared years of militancy with him.

But maybe it’s now, or since she became Sumar’s spokesperson before the 23J elections, when the diplomatic arts are most needed, in a political and media Madrid that has nothing to do with the coldness of Brussels. Even less if he holds a ministerial portfolio, in his case that of Culture, replacing the socialist – and, like him, Catalan – Miquel Iceta. In the Council of Ministers, Urtasun will also be the voice and eyes of the Ada Colau Comuns, who were previously in charge of choosing the Minister of Universities and who have now opted for a portfolio that is born with a first big announcement: the cultural rights law. At his side, as Secretary of State, he will have the person who until now was Colau’s right-hand man in Barcelona: Jordi Martí.

The young man from ICV who piloted the confluence in the commons

Born in Barcelona in 1982, Urtasun’s life has always been linked to politics and the left. Educated in the exclusive French Lyceum, as a teenager, and following in the wake of his parents – who were from the PSUC –, he joined the youth of the defunct Initiative for Catalunya Verds (ICV). At the turn of the century, Urtasun already claimed to be a convinced Europeanist and environmentalist and, at the same time that he graduated in Economics and obtained a postgraduate degree in International Relations, his name began to appear on ballots of the ecosocialists, first in the municipal elections of Barcelona and in 2004 in the Europeans.

A twenty-something Urtasun then became an advisor in Brussels to the Green MEP Raül Romeva – today in the ranks of ERC –, a period during which he became involved in the movement in the European Green Youth together with later relevant figures such as Ska Keller (the German MEP who would be the Greens’ candidate to preside over the European Commission). Due to his capacity for work and preparation, which those who know him praise as one of his main virtues, Urtasun combined that stage with studying and overcoming the examinations for the diplomatic corps, among the most difficult that exist in Spain.

A good conversationalist in numerous languages ​​(he speaks Catalan, Spanish, English, French, a little Italian and understands German), he dedicated himself to a diplomatic career for a brief period, between 2010 and 2014. He became a member of the minister’s cabinet. Foreign Socialist Miguel Ángel Moratinos –signed by Santos Maraver, today number 2 of Díaz in Sumar– and was also adviser to the secretary general of the Union for the Mediterranean.

But politics can get him and Urtasun returned to the front line by running in the European elections in 2014 for the Plural Left candidacy, with which he was elected MEP in 2014. In addition, he soon took on the challenge of coordinating an ICV in Catalonia for then in low hours whose main objective was to achieve a successful confluence in the space of the commons.

From Brussels, Urtasun became an important asset of En Comú and repeated as head of the list in 2019. From the Greens/European Free Alliance group, he has specialized above all in fiscal and economic policy. And he is currently still a member of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee and the Fiscal Affairs Subcommittee of the European Parliament, as well as a substitute in the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Unlike the outgoing minister Miquel Iceta, Urtasun is a great football fan, a Barça fan. But what unites him with his predecessor is that he cannot display a professional resume linked to Culture. Although his friends do point out that he is a great lover of live music and, in particular, jazz. A regular at concerts and festivals, you can still consult some of the articles that he published in Rockdelux until a few years ago, from a review of Jamaican music to a glowing review of the emerging Queralt Lahoz. All that remains now is for me to invoke it. elf with which the Colomian artist puts the public in her pocket to seduce the always demanding cultural sector.

The challenges facing Culture

At the head of Culture, a socialist minister would have outlined a continuity ministry with the aim of completing the half-finished projects, which come from behind and have not been finished despite the four ministers who have held the portfolio with Sánchez as president ( Huerta, Guirao, Rodríguez Uribes and Iceta). But the coalition agreement with Sumar has created a breath of fresh air with a major project under its belt: a future cultural rights law that reorients what Spain understands by culture.

Urtasun therefore has to explain to the Spanish that culture is not a book or an entry for a play. With a rights-based approach, cultural policy will be designed thinking about those actions aimed at promoting access to culture regardless of purchasing power and freedom of expression no matter who governs. A political model based on cultural industries favors the publication of many books, but a model of rights ensures that they are affordable, that no one is left out or left behind, that there are no banned books in libraries, that there is a system that favors writers With talent they can dedicate themselves to writing even if they do not have the resources to do so.

In that sense, the tool created by the Government that favors access to culture for young people, while encouraging Spanish cultural industries, the Cultural Bonus, will continue to exist. Sumar’s intention is to expand the population group that receives it. But in addition to the cultural rights law and the bonus, the minister will have to devise other strategies so that the articles of the law are not just a letter of good intentions.

In addition to this project, the incoming minister will have to attend to other more mundane ones, such as the complex inter-ministerial coordination that represents the Statute of the Artist that is about to be completed. The last update of the monitoring of measures was carried out in March and had nine pending issues – most with the Ministry of Finance but some essential with Labor – and 17 in negotiation. Taxation relating to irregular income or intermittency is the most anticipated adjustment for cultural workers.

Another pending issue that Urtasun should accelerate is the unfinished film law, something that Iceta needed to sign up for due to the grievance that independent producers received in the drafter of the General Law of Audiovisual Communication. The Government promised them that it would compensate them with the cinema fee, whose processing was halted due to the early elections. The new law is expected to show its support and reflect on what is understood by cinema, something that today goes far beyond films. This legislation should encourage new, diverse and non-commercial forms of production.

The minister must choose who will direct his performing arts institute, the INAEM, which needs a major reform because it has become a large slow vessel overwhelmed by bureaucracy, which has to promote the establishment of a Dance Center, which Spain does not has and needs. In your program. Sumar had proposed the creation of a State Film Agency and a reform, also, of the ICAA, his film institute. These instruments need to be more than mere grant managers to promote this other type of culture that puts rights at the center.

Sumar provided the most voluminous and detailed cultural electoral program, which Urtasun should develop to a large extent, with a new cultural heritage law that encompasses different regulations so that no aspect of heritage is left out, and a patronage law that allows more people to contribute to the art world. He should also finalize two laws from the previous Government that hardly need any final adjustments: that on artistic education and the law that articulates the new copyright office.

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