In our regular internet browsing, we recently came across a link to Aston University in Birmingham, UK in an article published on the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) website last December which we found extremely interesting, and thanks to coming across it now, we’re able to bring it to you.

The article is titled “Levelling Up: Six Key Takeaways from the Basque Experience of Regional Competitiveness and Inclusive Growth“.

It’s a summary of what was discussed at an event organized by the Aston Centre for Europe and the Foreign Policy Center, “Fostering inclusive growth to ‘level up’ the UK: Lessons from the Basque Country“, in which four speakers took part: Dr. Edurne Magro, senior researcher at Orkestra-Instituto Vasco de Competitividad; Bill Murray OBE, Spanish economic advisor at Global Counsel; Dr. Igor Calzada, senior researcher at the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data (WISERD) at Cardiff University; and Henriette Lyttle-Breukelaar, director of Economic Strategy at Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership.

The article was written by Dr. Caroline Gray, who was in charge of running it and who is a professor of Politics, History and International Relations at the Aston Centre for Europe (ACE) at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities at this university.

The presentation of the article on the Aston University website begins thus: “What takeaways from the Basque experience might be relevant to levelling up in the UK and the devolution framework needed to facilitate it?”.  Immediately, we recalled the article the Financial Times published last December by Martin Wolf, associate editor and lead economic commentator for that newspaper, which covered this same matter, with conclusions that seem to be similar to the ones reached in this event.

In the article we bring you today, a series of questions are presented, as they look for the answer to the key question asked at the event: “What takeaways from the Basque experience might be relevant to levelling up in the UK and the devolution framework needed to facilitate it?”:

  • Stable and predictable financing for local and regional authorities is fundamental.
  • Local contributions and distributed leadership are fundamental for designing and implementing the strategy.
  • Local and regional empowerment must go hand-in-hand with accountability.
  • Focusing on the specific strengths of the area and going deeper and diversifying starting from that base.
  • A degree of collaboration between parties is crucial to prevent shortsightedness.
  • A wide variety of potential interested parties must be included in the design and implementation of inclusive growth strategies.

In today’s article, each one of these points we’ve summarized above is explained.

The author of the article, Caroline Gray, published another article last January on her university’s website.  In it, she analyzed some of these elements that might help the British Government, again referencing the decentralized Basque model, in the devolution process Great Britain must follow: “Devolution does not stop with the powers devolved to regional governments or authorities; the relationship between different stakeholders and layers of governance within a region or locality is equally important.”  We’ll leave you with this article as well, given its interest.

It’s worth stopping for a moment and getting out of the self-absorption that takes us down paths of extreme self-criticism and analyzing how those outside the Basque Country see us.  Doing this does not mean we need to stop taking a critical look at ourselves, but, as we like to say, to analyze a situation better, it’s good to get an outside perspective to ensure you’re not missing the forest for the trees.

Lastly, we’d like to state that they make many references to the Economic agreement, which does not lack solidarity or give special advantages.  It is a system of “unilateral responsibility” that makes the southern Basques responsible for their taxes and expenses, without forgetting to tend to the obligations set out by their belonging to Spain.  Some parts of the General Budget have not been transferred to the Basque Country and Navarre, and those expenses are covered in the autonomous communities’ payments to the central government.

The financing systems of the autonomous communities which do not have Agreements cannot be compared with those which do.  But this isn’t due to the source of the financing, at least not fundamentally.  The big takeaway is that unlike with other autonomous communities, the Basque Country and Navarre cannot underwrite anyone else (like the State) for their debts, deficits, or poor management or economic crises.  That is authentic solidarity.

This is something we know the author understands well, because she’s studied it in-depth.

Foreign Policy Center – 15/12/2021 – Great Britain

Levelling up: Six key takeaways from the Basque experience of regional competitiveness and inclusive growth

Citing the Basque Country as an example of inclusive economic growth may, at first, seem to many rather a paradox. In the context of Spain’s model of devolution, the Basque Country, one of Spain’s 17 regions known as ‘autonomous communities’, is more often accused of lacking in solidarity with the rest of the country, given the way the region’s financing model works. For historical reasons, the Basque Country, along with the neighbouring region of Navarre, raises almost all its own taxes under a model of near fiscal autonomy.

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Aston University – 1/2022 – Gran Bretaña

What the Basque Country tells us about ‘levelling up’ | Aston Angle

n a recent interview on his vision of ‘levelling up’, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, cited the Basque Country as one example of where ‘things have been done well’. The Basque Country, an industrial region of northern Spain with a population of just over two million, is widely admired for having undergone a remarkable, industry-focused economic transformation since it was hit by the decline of heavy industry in the 1980s.

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*Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) is an independent, non-partisan international affairs think tank based in the United Kingdom. Our mission is to inform both the British and global debate, seeking sustainable solutions for the world’s most pressing challenges


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