Takeaways from the Knowledge Exchange on Approaches to Strengthening Functional Areas Governance

Discover the main insights from our workshop on approaches to strengthening functional areas governance, which was attended by 96 representatives from various functional areas. This workshop was part of a series of knowledge exchange activities organized under the “Functional Areas in the EU” project.

At the beginning of the workshop, Marcel Ionescu-Heroiu, Senior Urban Development Specialist at the World Bank, provided an introduction of the project and presented the speaker, Xavi Tiana, Head of the International Relations Service of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area. The workshop featured a session that explored the history and evolution of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, known worldwide as one of the most successful examples of inter-jurisdictional cooperation. Overall, the session aimed to offer attendees a comprehensive overview and valuable insights on how to enhance governance in functional areas.

The presentation was structured around three key pillars, namely explaining the territory, the governance structure, and the competences/mandate of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (AMB). The AMB is a unique form of bottom-up cooperation in Spain, and the only functioning metropolitan governing body in the country, originated over 40 years ago, to address the need for supra-local collaboration. Currently, the metropolitan institution is made up of 36 municipalities, with the president being one of the mayors of the 36 municipalities (usually the mayor of Barcelona), and with a General Manager in charge of operational duties. The metropolitan Council convenes monthly, while the Board of Governance meets bi-monthly. It should be noted that in 2010 a law was passed to establish a robust institutional framework between all municipalities, and if a mayor decides to join or leave the AMB, the law has to be modified accordingly. Furthermore, the law 31/2010 also defines the competences of the AMB in various areas such as land and housing, environment, mobility and transport, strategic planning, social and economic development, and international relations. These competences are further grouped into four main powers: territory, mobility and transport, ecology, and economy and society. Additionally, the AMB also has a dedicated department focused on improving international relationships, with the aim of supporting metropolitan areas in developing better outcomes for their citizens.

Another highlight of the presentation was the budget of the AMB, which is divided into two main components: the budget of the AMB itself, which sums up to 1.176,81 million EUR, and the budget of the metropolitan companies, including the taxi company and metropolitan transport of Barcelona, accounting for the remainder of the total budget. In total, the budget of the AMB is around 2.40 billion EUR.

Next, Xavi touched upon AMB’s wide range of powers and mandate. One of the key areas under the AMB mandate is public spaces, housing, and infrastructure. Interventions in this area have to be in line with the new Metropolitan Master Plan, which is aligned with the region’s development plan (PTG). AMB invests in building different infrastructures and facilities, and maintains a network of 53 urban parks within the metropolitan area, covering over 300 hectares. Additionally, it manages the maintenance and development of public beaches along the coastline, which are important for the local economy and for climate change adaptation. With respect to housing, the AMB  focuses on social housing, recovering existing housing, addressing energy poverty, and establishing an Observatory for monitoring housing-related issues. They also collaborate with a private-public company to build housing, with 25% ownership by AMB, 25% by the City of Barcelona, and the rest by the private company. Furthermore, the AMB promotes smart city initiatives through the use of mobile applications, LED lighting, and other innovative technologies.

AMB’s mandate in mobility and transport includes collective urban transport, promotion of sustainable transport, traffic programming in the basic road network, underground transportation and management of the local taxi. Planning and providing transport is a costly task, and the AMB has a double system where a public company operates only within Barcelona, while outside of Barcelona, a private company is responsible. Sustainable transport and mobility initiatives in the AMB include the development of bike lanes, investment in new technology for taxis, and the use of hybrid, hydrogen, and gas-powered buses. The AMB also promotes intermodal transportation with initiatives like Bicibox, where commuters can leave their bikes and continue their journey by train or bus. Furthermore, to address pollution concerns, the AMB has established a low emission zone around Barcelona, which restricts certain vehicles from entering the city from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays. The low emission zone is monitored through cameras, and exceptions are made for emergency vehicles and hospital visits. The AMB works in collaboration with the region and other municipalities to extend and implement low emission zones to mitigate pollution levels in the metropolitan area.

The third major mandate of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area is ecology, which includes the management of the water cycle and waste management, from small green points to large metropolitan infrastructure. The AMB follows a sustainable plan that focuses on energy efficiency, environmental health, and education for sustainability. The fourth mandate includes strategic planning, social policies, and economic development. Strategic planning tools employed by the AMB include partnerships, participation, while social policies are focused on supporting municipalities in fighting against inequality, fostering social partnerships, and other social initiatives. In terms of economic development, each municipality in the AMB has an innovation district, and the AMB provides support through its Economic Development Agency to help attract investors and foster economic growth in cooperation with other municipalities, including the City of Barcelona. Services provided include re-industrialization plans, support for new economies such as green, collaborative, and social economies, and tourism and branding strategies beyond the city of Barcelona.

The fifth major mandate of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area is international relations, which is guided by the following strategic lines: influencing the European and international political agenda to promote the interests of metropolitan areas, fundraising for European and international projects, innovation and knowledge management in metropolitan areas, international economic promotion, and international cooperation. Furthermore, the AMB has developed the European Metropolitan Authorities, a forum that engages leading politicians from Europe’s main cities and metropolitan areas, with a focus on bringing the needs of metropolitan areas on the EU and national policy agendas.

If you are interested in learning more about the history and evolution of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area, you can access the presentations below. 

 More details on AMB can be obtained here:


The Knowledge Exchange Presentation:

Barcelona Metropolitan Area

Knowledge Exchange on Approaches to Strengthening Functional Area Governance

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April 19, 2023

9.00 AM (CET time)

Event format:
Online Meeting

Event category:
Knowledge Exchange

World Bank

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