A plane lands at El Prat airport.MASSIMILIANO MINOCRI
The investment of 1,700 million euros to expand Barcelona’s El Prat airport was put on hold yesterday. The Government has decided to paralyze the project in the face of the opposition shown by the Catalan Executive since last Friday, despite the fact that on August 2, it reached an agreement to dislodge the investment. Thus, the company controlled by the State, Aena, will withdraw from its Airport Regulation Document 2022-26 (DORA) that the Council of Ministers plans to approve this month any reference to its plans for Barcelona, which included the extension of one of its runways to gain operability, the construction of another terminal to speed up the expected growth of passengers and even a new car park. The Generalitat had also included in the agreement the construction of two high-speed train stations at the airports of Reus (Tarragona) and Vilobí d’Onyar (Girona). The vice president Jordi Puigneró has regretted the government’s decision, which he considers “unilateral” but also charged against his ERC partners for having questioned the investment in a “frivolous” manner.
“After a month the pact has been broken due to a manifest loss of confidence”, the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, assured this Wednesday from Barcelona to justify the rupture. The Government has made the decision after the controversy opened last Friday, when Aena released the DORA, a document through which the future rate policy at Spanish airports is set according to investment needs. In it, for the first time, it was mentioned in official documentation that the extension of the track would affect the La Ricarda area, an area protected by the Natura 2000 network. But the document also included a safeguard: that the project was conditioned on the Environmental approval of the European Commission, in addition to that of the Generalitat and the Ministry of Ecological Transition.
The reaction of the Generalitat has come from Brussels, where the vice-president Jordi Puigneró is, along with the rest of the Junts deputies, in a few days of preparation for the political course. The number two of the Catalan Executive has charged at two levels. In the first place against the central government, which it has accused of acting unilaterally. Puigneró has criticized that “decisions are made about the future of Catalonia without counting on the Government” and has described the entire episode as “new disloyalty”. But he has also had words against his Government partners, ERC, who in the last hours had assured that they would participate in the demonstration against the expansion. For the vice president a certain “frivolity” has generated “confusion” and has assured that this has been transmitted to the president Pere Aragonès.
The mayor of El Prat, one of the opponents of the expansion and present at the information meeting where the DORA was presented on Friday, accused the Government of the Generalitat of having agreed to affect the space. Hours after the uproar, President Pere Aragonès launched a tweet in which he demanded explanations from Aena and a correction to the documentation. Shortly after, it was ERC, one of the two partners of the Government, which sent a statement against the DORA, in the face of the silence of the Junts, which has led the negotiations with the Government. Aena argued that nothing included exceeded what was agreed with the Generalitat.
In video, the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, announces that the Government suspends investment in the El Prat Airport.(EUROPA PRESS)
Since then, the tension has grown and there is even the possibility that some councilors of the Generalitat will attend a demonstration against the airport expansion on the 19th. at least his plans for Barcelona fallow.
“The pact has been broken by a manifest loss of confidence. It is impossible to carry it out without the support of the Government and the Generalitat does not have a mature position ”, said Raquel Sánchez, Minister of Transport in an intervention called urgently at the Government Delegation in Barcelona, in which she said she was surprised by the reaction of Aragonès. And he has stressed that the Executive “is not going to impose the expansion because the Generalitat does not make it possible.”
The Government considers that the consensus of August 2 has been broken, when, taking advantage of the meeting of the bilateral State-Generalitat commission, both executives agreed to negotiate the terms of the expansion at the expense of the definitive approval of the European Union. Aena proposes to extend the track on the sea side by 500 meters, affecting an area of special ecological protection. Sánchez has defended this afternoon that the compensation proposed by Aena would mean expanding the protected area by 25% through compensation, so it “complies with the requirements of the EU Habitats directive.”
Sánchez has warned that he has given Aena permission to, in an exercise of “transparency”, bring to light the documentation that has been exchanged during all the meetings held between the two administrations.
Raquel Sánchez, Minister of Transport, Mobility, this Wednesday in Congress.Ministry of Transport
The Executive’s decision supposes a suspension and not a definitive no to the operation. The minister has expressed the “will to reach out” on the part of the Government, but has also ensured that the preparation of the master plan that had to be addressed after the inclusion of the investment in the DORA has lost all need and has given permission to Aena to make public the documents resulting from the meetings held with the Generalitat.
Aena planned to expand one of the airport’s runways and build a new terminal to gain operability, since its estimates foresee that the facilities will be saturated in some time slots from 2026. It defends that the investment is essential to convert El Prat into a node of intercontinental flights and that would benefit the population of various municipalities (Castelldefels and Gavà) by reducing the number of aircraft that will fly over their territories. The works would not be planned until 2030.
The slowdown in the expansion of El Prat does not drag, for now, the development projects planned for the Girona and Reus airports. On paper, it does not alter the call for the dialogue table between the State and the Generalitat, set, even without a day, for next week. The change in the Government’s position with respect to the August 2 agreement “does not question the desire for permanent dialogue that the government of Spain wants to maintain with the Generalitat and should not affect the dialogue table,” Minister Sánchez announced.
El Prat celebrates the decision
The mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler (El Prat en Comú), has appeared this Wednesday and has celebrated the Government’s decision but has said that “the game is not over and we will have to play an extension”, reports Clara Blanchar. “The PSOE places the Government in a check, transfers the pressure to blackmail at all or nothing,” he said. “We found that AENA would not move an inch and that the expansion involved the expansion of the third runway with the destruction of natural spaces,” he stated.
Of course, he has celebrated “that common sense and the pressure of the people and politicians who say things by name prevail in the face of opacity and the pretense of preserving the Llobregat delta.” Finally, the mayor has demanded the convocation of the institutional table that the president of the Generalitat express his position.
The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau will not make a statement this Wednesday, municipal sources have reported. Yes, he will do it tomorrow in the visit he plans to make to La Ricarda with the mayor of El Prat and the vice president and minister of the Government Yolanda Díaz. Meanwhile, the Councilor for the Presidency of the Barcelona City Council, Jordi Martí, has written on Twitter: “Projects that make no sense fall at the first wind blow, no one wanted Europe to stop it. The error of Aena and its executive president is enormous ”.
Colau’s partner in the City Council, the socialist Jaume Collboni, has called the Government “irresponsible” and has urged on Twitter “to reconsider for the future of Barcelona and Catalonia and support the proposed expansion of the airport.” “A country without consensus is a country in retrogression. The lack of leadership and the irresponsibility of the Government leads to the loss of opportunities, employment and investment ”.