We interview Luis Merino Barrionuevo, Ex-Mayor of Málaga and currently co-chairman of Civisur, a private initiative that aims at strengthening cooperation between Málaga and Seville.

What is Civisur, how was it born?
In a conversation I had with ex-Mayor of Seville, Manuel del Valle, we arrived at the conclusion that the traditional rivalry between Málaga and Seville made no sense. We realised we shared numerous common problems, interests and objectives, so the idea was to find a way to work together.

The first formal encounter took place in Antequera, with twelve representatives from each province. The meeting started at noon and lasted until well into the evening. We immediately realised there was plenty of scope for our vision of what the shared future between our two cities should be. Málaga and Seville together make up for 45 per cent of the Andalusian economy, so it was clear that the initiative could be of major importance.

CIVISUR stands for Unión Cívica del Sur de España. We are a completely private organisation. All work is done altruistically and our funding comes from our personal membership fees. We are not a political association though many of us have previous political experience. Others have worked in higher positions within the Administration or still do, but we are by no means linked to any political party or ideology; on the contrary, we make it a point to remain independent.

In order to be efficient in our day-to-day functioning we have a limited number of permanent members, currently set at 52. Then, on an ad hoc basis, specialists in different areas join our working groups. This is where the actual projects are studied and developed. Each member supplies their knowledge, experience and contacts.

We basically draw on people from three areas of civil society: the professional sector, businesses and the Universities, from Málaga and Seville. We have doctors, engineers, economists and lawyers; managers from leading textiles or chemicals companies; for example, Javier González de Lara, President of the Andalusian Busniess Association is a member.

When you analyse a topic from these three perspectives —professional, university and business — you are likely to get a complete picture of important issues.

What projects are you working on now?
We currently have open four areas of interest: land planning, infrastructure, tourism and social welfare. We don’t get involved in specific local matters but focus on those that concern both Málaga and Seville, or their provinces.

With respect to welfare for example, the Presidents of both Food Banks are members of CIVISUR. We are looking at ways to improve logistics by creating a base in Antequera or Estepa, close to Seville. The idea is to facilitate the distribution of food stock…

Words Cristina Falkenberg / Photography Kevin Horn

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