"Brexit should be approached as an opportunity to grow as neighbours and equals."

Susana Pérez Custodio's inaugural speech as president of the Campo de Gibraltar Mancomunidad addresses various topics.

The popular Susana Pérez Custodio was proclaimed as the new president of the Mancomunidad de Municipios del Campo de Gibraltar on Tuesday. The Algeciras native takes over from the socialist Juan Lozano and has started this new journey with a very personal speech, which included expressions of gratitude and goals for the new term.

"Good afternoon, everyone. It's a day of great emotions for me, and I hope it's the same for all of us who have taken the oath today and are part of the Mancomunidad de Municipios del Campo de Gibraltar.

Civil authorities, military authorities, colleagues, friends, families, and house workers.

First and foremost, I want to thank all of you who have supported me in these past weeks. This new political journey is a significant personal and professional challenge, but I embrace it with great responsibility and enthusiasm. Without your support, it would be an uphill battle.

I want to give special thanks to José Ignacio Landaluce for believing in me twelve years ago to collaborate in public management and continuing to do so in such an important period for our region, which begins today. Thank you.

My other great thanks go to my family, and I extend this gratitude to the families of everyone here today. They are our foundation, our greatest support, and yet they are the ones who endure most of our ups and downs. I want to make a special reference to my father, who, thanks to technology, will be following us from the comfort of his home. From him, I learned three virtues he displayed throughout his life: tireless work, honesty, and unwavering loyalty. I hope his teachings have made me a better person and will accompany me in the next four years of work.

I worked in the media for many years and have spent twelve years in politics, responsible for a press office and a municipal television. I have faced countless times a blank sheet of paper or screen to write a press release, a report, an interview, or a speech. This time, what I had to write was for myself, and it has been more challenging than I imagined. I don't want to appear overly sensitive, but I want my first words leading this institution to reflect what I carry inside and my goals.

Those who know me know that I like to study, analyse, and understand. And what better study than what the people who preceded me in this position have attempted and often achieved. Since the creation of the Mancomunidad in 1985, we have had nine presidents. Almost 40 years of history that began with Rafael Palomino Kaiser, who will be remembered for his advocacy for the region's demands, always seeking consensus among those who have led the destinies of each municipality.

José Carracao; José Luis Landero; Miguel Manella; Juan Montes de Oca; Isabel Beneroso; Diego González de la Torre; Luis Ángel Fernandez; and the one who has managed this institution for the past four years, Juan Lozano. Each one, in their own way, I'm sure, shares feelings and objectives and a basic commitment, to find ways to build bridges. The Mancomunidad is a bridge between territories, and we must be the key that provides bonds and communication links.

One of our responsibilities must be to reinforce the close ties we have with our neighbors in Gibraltar. Sociological, family, economic, cultural, sporting, or political bonds will be recognized in the work of this new team. If I had to choose a phrase, a purpose, a wish, from the situation created by Brexit, it is that it should be seen as an opportunity. An opportunity to grow as neighbours and equals, an opportunity to strengthen our existing ties, an opportunity to bridge differences and showcase the many good foundations that unite us.

The distorted and terribly unfair view that is often, more often than we would like, presented of our region is sometimes the result of exaggeration and sometimes of ignorance about what the Campo de Gibraltar truly is, its potential, its people, its rich and extensive heritage, its importance in the natural environment... and much of this ignorance is caused by ourselves, who instead of taking on the task of defending and promoting what is ours, are carried away by trends that tend to achieve the opposite.

When I was proposed to lead this institution, many people congratulated me while asking me what the Mancomunidad was for. It is a clear example of what I am trying to say, and I commit to continuing to fight, like my predecessors in the position, to ensure that the promotion of our region is always reflected in our work. Positive promotion and making known the important work carried out in this institution and the various organisations it comprises.

An example of this goal is the work that the Instituto de Estudios Campogibraltareños has been doing over the years: supporting, promoting, and safeguarding all the cultural, scientific, artistic, educational, and research potential in the Campo de Gibraltar.

Our region needs to continue working with a comprehensive plan to harness its potential, a plan that includes coherent and planned public investments, with fairness and balance compared to other territories, a plan that involves determined commitments from the Provincial Government, the Andalusian Government, the central Government, and the European Union. Regardless of who is in power, the important thing is that they look at the Campo de Gibraltar.

As the new president of the Mancomunidad de Municipios del Campo de Gibraltar, it is my duty to represent and work for the eight municipalities that make up our entity. To do this, I believe that the following objectives should be addressed:

Promote job creation and attract investments to foster economic growth and improve the quality of life for our citizens. Advocate for the improvement and modernisation of the region's road and transportation infrastructure, including better road connections and public transportation, not forgetting new energy sources. Boost tourism as an economic driver for the region, promoting sustainable tourism and environmental protection, utilising our unique natural and cultural resources. Drive improvements in the quality of education in our municipalities, as well as promote training and professional development to enhance job opportunities for our citizens. Implement environmental policies for the protection and conservation of our natural environment, as well as measures for adapting to and mitigating climate change. Promote the cultural development of our municipalities, preserving and highlighting our historical and cultural heritage, fostering citizen participation, and ensuring access to culture for all. And strengthen cooperation and coordination among the eight municipalities to promote joint projects and actions that benefit the entire region, optimising resources and sharing best practices. An example of these best practices is brought to us by the work of the Economic and Social Council, promoting our unity and the fight for what this region needs and deserves.

These are just a few examples of the needs and objectives that I, as the president of the Mancomunidad de Municipios del Campo de Gibraltar, believe we should address and work on together among the eight municipalities. It is essential to continue with a strategic plan that takes into account the specific characteristics of each municipality and seeks the common interest of our community. Together, we must achieve a better future, a prosperous and sustainable future for this beautiful region.

Jimena, with its rich history and privileged natural surroundings; Castellar, with its imposing castle, one of the most beautiful villages in Spain; San Martín del Tesorillo, known for its tranquillity and welcoming rural atmosphere; San Roque, the perfect combination of history, natural beauty, and quality of life; Los Barrios, with its significant industrial hub and a rich gastronomic scene in the heart of the Alcornocales Natural Park; Algeciras, strategically and economically important thanks to its port and geographical location; La Línea and its close relationship with Gibraltar, with its own tourist attractions, Andalusian cuisine, and major future projects; and Tarifa, the only place in Europe that combines a rich history, beautiful beaches, an exceptional natural environment, and diverse tourism offerings.

Our strategic location in the Strait of Gibraltar, embraced by two natural parks and the only intercontinental biosphere reserve, gives us significant importance that we must acknowledge, enjoy, and leverage. Understanding our realities and working to find solutions for them. This is the work carried out by Arcgisa, our service company, one of the first public companies of this kind in Andalusia.

In me, you will find (and I extend this to the entire team) someone open to dialogue, understanding, and respectful of different opinions. We are obligated to understand each other, even if it is more challenging in some cases, and we must work on the basis of respect, recognising our different realities with a common goal, to make our region better, and this is my primary commitment to the people of Campo de Gibraltar.

Together, we have outlined a bold and shared vision, a vision built on the strength of our diversity and the power of our unity.

As the president of the Mancomunidad, a position designed to provide cohesion and unity to the region, I pledge to you to work tirelessly to make our dreams and aspirations a reality. Our region has limitless potential, and with determination and effort, we can overcome any challenges that come our way.

I invite all of you to join in this journey towards a prosperous and sustainable future for the Campo de Gibraltar. I will listen to your voices, address your concerns, and consider your ideas because together, together, we are stronger.

History has shown us that when citizens come together around a common goal, the most extraordinary achievements become possible. So, let's look up and work together to build a region where equality, justice, and solidarity are the pillars of our society.

Let's make the Campo de Gibraltar known not only for its natural beauty and rich history but also for its brave, hardworking people committed to progress.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your trust and support. Let's move forward, united by a common purpose because together, we are the heart and soul of this land we love.

Long live the Campo de Gibraltar!"