Category: Basque economy (page 2 of 3)

Green Basque Country

There was an interesting article in the Noticias de Álava newspaper recently about a woodland and lumber fair held in Amurrio, Araba, last Sunday. It included the piece of data that, in the Basque Autonomous Community (BAC, made up of Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa), there are 106 trees per person , with a woodland area covering 396,700 hectares, or 55% of the total terrain. It is estimated, moreover, that the lumber industry accounts for 12 billion euros annually. This all points to the lumber sector being an important part of the Basque economy.

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The Irati Forest, Navarre. Photo by Juanma juesas, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In “The Landscape of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country: The Evolution of Forest Systems” by Lorena Peña and Ibone Amezaga, a chapter in Sustainable Development, Ecological Complexity, and Environmental Values, edited by Ignacio Ayestarán and Miren Onaindia, the authors address in detail the complex issues surrounding land use in woodland areas in the Basque Country.

See the original article in Noticias de Álava (in Spanish) here: http://www.noticiasdealava.com/2016/10/24/araba/euskadi-un-total-de-106-arboles-por-habitante

October 18, 1997: Inauguration of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

October 18, 1997 marked the inauguration of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao – today one of the most emblematic sites in the Basque Country.

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The Guggenheim by night. Photo by PA. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Hailed as a masterpiece and one of the most important buildings of the 20th century, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, designed by architect Frank Gehry,  came to redefine the Basque Country as a whole and the city of Bilbao in particular: it was the “miracle” of Bilbao.

The “miracle” referred of course to Frank Gehry’s Bilbao masterpiece. Hailed as an “instant landmark,” it brought a new sense of relevance to architecture in the transformation of urban landscapes. It was the story of the architect as hero and, as the Greeks believed, of architecture as the first art—arché. Bilbao was doing for the Basques what the Sidney Opera House had done for Australia. Gehry, while complaining of being “geniused to death,” became not only the master architect, but the master artist.

These observations come from the introduction to Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika. This book is available free to download here.

The Center also publishes other books on the social, cultural, and urban transformation of Bilbao and the Basque Country, for which the Guggenheim served in many respects as a springboard:

That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, by Joseba Zulaika.

Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

 

September 3, 1902: Euskalduna company launches first ship

On September 3, 1902, the Euskalduna company launched its first ship, the “Portu,” a barge for use by the important Altos Hornos de Vizcaya foundry. Euskalduna, a marine engineering company whose full name was Euskalduna de Construcción y Reparación de Buques de Bilbao, would go on to become one of the most renowned features of the Basque industrial landscape with its headquarters in the heart of Bilbao. It opened for business in 1900 and finally closed in 1988 after a four-year period of severe confrontations  between workers and police over the decision to close the shipyard.

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Aerial view of Bilbao in the 1950s during a new era of expansion for Euskalduna, shown here top left in the picture beside the bridge. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

During that time, the company enjoyed mixed fortunes: a boom in the World War I era and beyond that tailed off by the 1930s; growth again in the 1950s and 1960s, with Euskalduna contributing 50% of the capital to a new statewide conglomerate, Astilleros Españoles, which by the late 1960s would be one of the largest shipbuilding companies in Europe; and, ultimately, decline again in the 1970s following the 1973 oil crisis and increasing competition from East Asia. When the decision was taken to close the shipyard in 1984, the workers there engaged in direct confrontation in an effort to maintain their jobs. These confrontations, as well as many negotiations including labor unions, management, and the public administration, went on for four years and this intense period came to define much of Bilbao’s social history in the 1980s.

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Central Bilbao today, with the Euskalduna Conference Centre, the reddish building, to the far right of the picture and the Bilbao maritime Museum behind that. Picture by Ben Bore (Rhys), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Following the closure of the shipyard, the emblematic site that had been so important in the industrial history and legacy of Bilbao was converted into a leisure area: today it houses both the Euskalduna Conference Centre and the Bilbao Maritime Museum. The site itself, then, continues to form a central part of the Bilbao economy, although now in a postindustrial and leisure-oriented framework.

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The “Carola” crane, installed in 1957 in the Euskalduna shipyard, it was and still is an important part of the cityscape. Today, though,  it forms part of the Bilbao Maritime Museum. Photo by Txo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, Joseba Zulika shares a very personal view of Bilbao and its historical transformations. And for more on Bilbao and the urban changes associated with the city through time, check out Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

 

 

Basque pig gets prized AOC status in France

Last week the revered appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), or “controlled designation of origin” status in France, was awarded to the Basque black pig breed, from which Kintoa pork (named after a valley in the Aldude area of Lower Navarre) comes. The decision marked a fifteen-year long struggle on the part of pig farmers in Iparralde to gain recognition for the quality of the pork associated with the Kintoa breed, pigs that are still raised on small-scale family farms.

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Basque pigs in Ureple, Aldude Valley, Lower Navarre. Photo by O. Morand, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In the 1990s the Kintoa breeders’ association that has been lobbying for the designation since 2001 had less than a dozen members, a figure that rose to around 30 at the turn of the century, and now stands at around 80.  A Kintoa pork festival has already been planned for October 2017 in honor of this major recognition, and the award will enable producers to preserve the breed and market their pork more easily at the European level as well as ensuring a level of quality and control for consumers.

Read more on this (in French) in Sud-Ouest here and (in Basque) in Gara here.

For more information on the Basque pig, check out this introductory explanation here at the site of renowned breeder and butcher Pierre Oteiza.

Basque Country mentioned in Washington Post report on European innovation

Rick Noack of the Washington Post recently reported on European innovation levels in his article “Where Europe is most and least innovative, in 6 maps.”  Citing the recent European Union Innovation Scoreboard,  Noack notes that, “the Basque country — an autonomous region in Spain — is the country’s only area that is more innovative than the E.U. average.”

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Check out the full report here.

See, too, Javier Echeverria’s fascinating study of innovation at the European level: Innovation and Values: A European Perspective.

Likewise, the Center has published two books specifically on innovation–in all its guises–in the Basque Country: Implications of Current Research on Social Innovation in the Basque Country, edited by Ander Gurrutxaga Abad and Antonio Rivera, free to download here; and Innovation: Economic, Social, and Cultural Aspects, edited by Mikel Gómez Uranga and Juan Carlos Miguel de Bustos, free to download here.

 

Recent article spotlights impact of Bilbao Exhibition Centre (BEC)

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An aerial view of BEC. Image courtesy of Mikel Arrazola, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Bilbao Exhibition Centre–more commonly referred to as BEC–is spotlighted in a recent article by journalist Mikel Mujika for Basque Tribune. As its name implies, BEC is the site for a number of emblematic events that take place in the Basque Country. Built on the site of what was once arguably the most famous Basque industrial company of its time, Altos Hornos de Vizcaya, in Barakaldo, it is interesting to see how the shift to a service-based economy in the Basque Country is reflected directly in this change.

Mujika takes a retrospective look at the life of BEC and highlights the wide range of events held there. A special point is made about the variety of these events: from, for example, its globally important International Machine-Tool Exhibition to concerts by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, sporting encounters such as the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and cultural events like the national bertsolaritza championships.

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An image of the Euskal Encounter, an annual meeting of information technology enthusiasts, held in BEC, and an opportunity to exchange knowledge and take part in multiple IT activities. Image by Iñigo Sendino, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A cursory glance at the upcoming program of events at BEC suggests that this diversity is still a major feature of the center, with meetings like Biocultura Bilbao, a fair of organic products and responsible consumption, and Intergune 2016, designed to aid Basque businesses in the field of their international outreach. For many observers, the health of BEC is synonymous with the pulse of the Basque economy as a whole.

Read the full article here.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Basque economy, check out the introductory text Basque Economy: From Industrialization to Globalization, by Mikel Gómez Uranga, free to download here.

See, too, Innovation: Economic, Social, and Cultural Aspects, edited by Mikel Gómez Uranga and Juan Carlos Miguel de Bustos, which looks at the most recent changes in the Basque economy, free to download here.

For a provocative case study of how such changes are affecting Basque society, check out Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

Cutting-edge Basque technology to harness wave energy premiered

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World Wave Energy Resource Map. By Ingvald Straume. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In a recent post we mentioned the fifth anniversary of the groundbreaking Mutriku Wave Energy Plant in Gipuzkoa and it would seem that the Basque Country is indeed at the forefront when it comes to harnessing the sustainable energy of the ocean.

Just today, the Basque company Navacel announced that it will produce a wave energy sensor device, sponsored by the Basque Country Energy Agency and designed by Oceantec Energy, which will be tested this Fall in the marine testing platform Bimep, located in Armintza-Lemoiz (Bizkaia).

The sensor will be made up of three steel plates in the shape of a buoy, with internal mechanical and electrical equipment capable of generating energy out of wave movement. The device will be 42 meters in length, 5 meters in diameter, and weigh some 80 tons. Two turbines located in the upper part of the device will generate the energy.

See a report on this new device (in Spanish) in the Basque daily Deia here.

Basque Country achieves one of highest Human Development Index scores in world

Eustat, the Basque Statistics Institute, recently revealed that the Basque Country  is now in eighth place in a list of all countries according to the Human Development Index (HDI) ranking.

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UN HDI Rankings for 2014. The darker the blue, the higher the ranking. Image by Tomtom2732, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The HDI is a United Nations measure of well-being in a country, based on multiple factors such as life expectancy, education, and income per capita. Eustat calculated the Basque Country’s HDI for the period of 2010-2014, using the methodology of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It found that, with an HDI of 0.915, the Basque Country was ranked eighth overall in the world, behind Norway, Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, and Ireland, in joint position with the United States. and ahead of France (22nd, with an HDI of 0.888) and Spain (26th, with an HDI of 0.876).

Of special note is life expectancy in the Basque Country, which at 83.4 means that only the inhabitants of Hong Kong (84) and Japan (83.5) enjoy longer lives.

Read more at the Eustat website: The Basque Country has achieved one of the highest Human Development Index scores in the world

If you’re interested in this topic, check out The Basque Experience: Constructing Sustainable Human Development, by Juan Jose Ibarretxe. In this work, former lehendakari (Basque president) Ibarretxe explores just how the Basque Country has been able to rise so swiftly in the HDI rankings in the face of the multiple challenges it has faced in recent decades.

 

Mutriku Wave Energy Plant celebrates fifth anniversary

Yesterday, July 18, the Mutriku Wave Energy Plant in Gipuzkoa, the world’s first breakwater wave power plant with a multiple turbine arrangement, run by the Basque Country Energy Agency, celebrated its fifth anniversary. The relatively scarce development of oceanic wave energy makes the Mutriku site a pioneer project at the global level.

The Mutriku Wave Energy Plant has just produced its first gigawatt of electricity from the breakwaters of the Mutriku harbor, enough to supply a hundred homes. But the plant is also also an experimental site, used to test out turbines and auxiliary equipment.

As regards the technical specifications, the plant itself is a hollow, trapezoidal structure with a submerged front opening and an opening at the top. The front opening is 3.20m high and four meters wide. Each of the 16 air chambers in the hollow structure houses a turbine weighing 1,200kg. The turbines are 2.83m high and four meters wide, and work with air. They do not, however, contain a gearbox, hydraulics, or pitching blades.The 16 turbines are connected to an 18.5kW turbo generator. A butterfly valve at the bottom of the generator enables isolation of the generator from the turbines whenever required. Any salts or impurities blocking the blades are removed by injecting fresh water. The plant is also installed with control and power conditioning equipment. The voltage of the current is stepped up using a transformer near the plant. Generated power is transferred through a transmission line.

For further and more detailed information on the project, see “Mutriku Wave Power Plant: From The Thinking Out to The Reality.”

If you’re interested in this topic, check out the Center publication Sustainable Development, Ecological Complexity, and Environmental Values, edited by Ignacio Ayestarán and Miren Onaindia. This is a fascinating study of how global issues such as sustainability are addressed at the local scale, in this case in the Basque Country.

Boise and Bilbao: Two Boomtowns

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A recent report by the Idaho Statesman looks at the links between two boomtowns, Boise and Bilbao. The visit of a Basque delegation, led by Basque President Iñigo Urkullu, to Idaho last year enhanced the historic connection between the two regions. There have been economic ties between the city of Boise and the Basque Country since the nineteenth century, when the burgeoning sheep industry in Idaho increased the need for talented sheepherders from the Basque Country. A century later, these connections were still evident through cultural events such as the Basque Soccer Friendly and Jaialdi in 2016, celebrating the Basque heritage and culture. These events only served to take the exisitng economic and cultural exchange to new heights.
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This year, a business delegation from the Basque province of Bizkaia visited Boise to renew the economic and cultural partnership between Boise and Bilbao. According to Asier Alea Castaños, General Manager of Trade Promotion for the Bizkaian Government, at present over a million people reside in Greater Bilbao with a GDP per capita reaching 122 percent of the European Union (EU) average. Bizkaia’s economic competitive advantage is backed by higher education institutions that rank higher than the rest of Europe in terms of research and development. And this Bizkaian economic and technological edge, coupled with the existing links between the two cities, provides the Boise business community with huge opportunities.
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Boise has itself experienced technological booms in recent years with high-tech projects such as Trailgead poised to attract investment from the Basque Country. With a cost of doing business only one-third of that in California or Washington, Boise can be an attractive investment option for Basque investors.

Boise has extensive business clusters in software, environmental technology, advanced energy, hi-tech manufacturing, hardware assembly, national call centers, and agricultural technology. And Boise’s comprehensive business cluster complements that of some of the main industries in and around Bilbao such as the aeronautic, automotive, electronic, information technology, energy, and maritime sectors. It would appear, then, that there are multiple opportunities for new links to be developed between these two Basque boomtowns.

Read the full article here.

The Center has published several books on the Basque economy. For a general introduction, see Basque Economy from Industrialization to Globalization by Mikel Uranga, free to download here.

Tow other works address innovation policies in the Basque Country:

Implications of Current Research on Social Innovation in the Basque Country, edited by Ander Gurrutxaga Abad and Antonio Rivera, free to download here.

And Innovation: Economic, Social, and Cultural Aspects, edited by Mikel Gómez Uranga and Juan Carlos Miguel de Bustos, available free to download here.

For some general historical background on the particular tax and finance system that so defines the particularity of the Basque Country, see Basque Fiscal Systems: History, Current Status, and Future Perspectives, edited by Joseba Agirreazkuenaga and Eduardo Alonso Olea.

Another key feature of the Basque economy in recent years has been its urban transformation. This process is examined in Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

And for a wonderful monograph of one of the most controversial economic issues in the Basque Country today, namely the plans for a new high-speed rail network to create a single interconnected “Basque city,” check out Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

 

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