Would Mobile World Congress remain in Barcelona with Colau as mayor?

Local election victor has said she will review the offer to retain the convention until 2023

Clara Blanchar
Conference-goers during the final day of this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Conference-goers during the final day of this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.Juan Barbosa

Following Barcelona en Comú (BComú) candidate Ada Colau’s victory in the Catalan capital mayoral race on Sunday, one of the biggest questions to arise is whether Spain’s second-largest city will continue to host the Mobile World Congress (MWC).

The continuation of the world’s biggest trade fair for telecoms and cellphone manufacturers in the city may be jeopardized by an incoming Colau administration.

The BComú coalition, which includes the leftist and green parties Initiative for Catalan Greens, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), United and Alternative Left, Podemos Barcelona, Procés Constituent and Equo, campaigned on a pledge to review whether the international meeting was beneficial for Barcelona.

The current CiU administration has proposed holding the conference until 2023

The MWC has been held every year in the city since 2005. This year’s edition in March attracted 90,000 visitors, created 12,500 temporary jobs and brought in around €436 million.

The current contract with Barcelona is set to expire in 2018. Under outgoing Mayor Xavier Trias, of the CiU Catalan nationalist bloc, city officials in March presented a proposal for Barcelona to go on hosting the congress until 2023.

The GSM Association (GSMA), the group of mobile operators and related companies that organizes the convention, said then that it found the plan “very interesting.”

“We will start the talks soon, but as of now we haven’t held any discussions,” John Hoffman, chief organizer of the convention, said at the time.

Milan is among the list of European cities that are keen to host the convention in the future.

In a news conference on Monday following her election win, Colau said that she would review all the private contracts and proposals signed under Trias’s administration “to see if they are beneficial” for the city, including the agreement to host the MWC.

This year’s edition of the congress attracted 90,000 visitors, created 12,500 temporary jobs and brought in around €436 million

Colau, who gained national attention at the height of the economic crisis as the spokeswoman for anti-eviction group the Mortgage Victims Association (PAH), won 11 seats in City Hall in Sunday’s municipal elections, but needs to make deals with opposition groups to attain the absolute majority of 21 she needs to push her agenda through over the next four years. 

Asked if she was in favor of continuing the contract, Colau said she supported the agreement but only if “profits are returned to the city and all the jobs created during the year are not threatened, and that we can take advantage of social benefits that are established.”

The GSMA has yet to release a statement concerning the new situation in Barcelona.

Josep Lluís Bonet, the chairman of Barcelona’s fair committee (Fira), said on Tuesday that he hoped Colau’s victory would not “entail any new consequences,” Catalan news agency ACN reported.

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