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Pasqual Maragall i Mira

Pasqual Maragall i Mira (born January 13, 1941 in Barcelona) was the 127th President of Generalitat de Catalunya (the government of Catalonia). He had previously been Mayor of Barcelona, from 1982 to 1997, and helped run the city's successful Olympic bid.

Early years

He was born in Barcelona in 1941 as the third of eight siblings. His grandfather was the Catalan poet Joan Maragall. In 1965, he married Diana Garrigosa, and he has two daughters and a son. He was an active member of the Front Obrer de Catalunya (Workers' Front of Catalonia) and joined the left-wing anti-Franco movement Frente de Liberación Popular (Popular Liberation Front). He studied Law and Economics at the UB between 1957 and 1964.

In 1965, after his studies, he joined the Specialist Office of Barcelona City Council as an economist, work he combined with giving classes in economic theory at the UAB, acting as assistant to the professor, Josep M. Bricall. He also cooperated with the Studies Service of the Banco Urquijo, run by Ramon Trias Fargas.

Between 1971 and 1973, he lived in New York, where he gained a Master of Arts in Economics from the New School University.

Beginnings in politics

In 1973, he came back to Barcelona and returned to the Barcelona City Council and to the UAB, where he gave classes on urban economics and international economics as temporary assistant lecturer. One year earlier, he supported Convergència Socialista de Catalunya, one of the founding groups of the PSC. In 1978, at the Economics Faculty of the UAB, he presented his doctoral thesis The prices of urban land. The case of Barcelona (1948-1978). In 1978, he was a researcher and guest professor at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. This university would later appoint him doctor honoris causa.

First elections

He joined the PSC electoral list in the first democratic municipal election for Barcelona City Council in 1979 and this party won the most votes at the ballot box. His friend Narcís Serra i Serra became Mayor while he became tinent d'alcalde (Deputy Mayor) for Administrative Reform, and later for Taxation. On December 1, 1982 he succeeded Narcís Serra as Mayor of Barcelona, since Narcís was appointed minister of Defence by the new Socialist government of Felipe González.

In 1986, the Catalan capital was chosen to host the 1992 Summer Olympics Accordingly, the city's mayor Pasqual Maragall presided over the organising committee (COOB'92). The Olympics provided the city with sorely-needed infrastructure. Another Maragall initiative, the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures, exhibited the same "top-down" approach. It is widely recognised, however, that the '92 Games helped Barcelona to redefine itself as one of the great cities of Europe.

From 1991 to 1997, he was President of the Council of Municipalities and Regions of Europe. He was also Vice-President of the International Union of Local Authorities and President of the Committee of the Regions of the European Union from 1996 to 1998.

= Recent years=

In 1997, Pasqual Maragall resigned as Barcelona's Mayor and returned to university lecturing in Rome and New York. However, he came back to active politics and was elected as the PSC-CpC candidate for the presidency of the Generalitat in the 1999 election.

In 2000, he was elected President of the Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC-PSOE), and was a member of the Catalan Parliament from 1988 to 1995. From 1999 to 2003, he presided the PSC-CpC parliamentary group.

On 16 December 2003, Pasqual Maragall was elected President of the Generalitat by the Catalan Parliament after cliff-hanger negotiations with the ERC and ICV parties. He finally took office on 20 December. While generally popular as Mayor of Barcelona, Maragall's career as President of the coalition government was marked by a series of crises. A particularly severe one involved First Minister Carod's "secret" trip to France to unofficially negotiate with ETA. Others include: the stormy negotiations over a new Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia in which Maragall and the PSC hovered between a nationalist stance and caving in to central government pressure; the collapse of an entire city block in Barcelona's Carmel district following poorly-planned and executed tunnelling work; and a scheme supported by Maragall's government to build a tunnel for the AVE high-speed train under the shaky foundations of Barcelona's 19th-century city centre. In October 2005 Maragall met with objections regarding his plans for reshuffling the cabinet without consulting either his coalition partners or his party. Ernest Maragall, the President's brother, was tipped for a ministerial post in the reshuffle. Ernest, who was seen by critics as an apparatchik and held the post of Executive Secretary, whipped up a storm of protest in June 2005 when he opposed plans to make Catalonia's future anti-fraud department independent of the government. Pasqual Maragall's pledges to fight corruption and nepotism in public administration were one of the key planks in his 2003 election campaign.

On 21 June 2006, Maragall announced that he would not be standing for reelection (see Catalan Parliament election, 2006). On 19 October 2007, it was announced that he would not pay his PSOE membership fee anymore, ending three decades of activity within the party. The following day, he announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. This announcement and other news and documents, are available at Maragall's recently-launched official website

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