Generalitat and State agree on the expansion of El Prat airport
Governments announce an agreement after meeting between Spanish transport and Catalan vice-president Puigneró
Barcelona"Barcelona will have an intercontinental airport and the airports of Reus and Girona will have high-speed train stations connecting them". Thus goes the agreement reached this Monday between the central government, the Generalitat and state airport company Aena to give the green light to the expansion of El Prat airport. After months of heated public debate, which has pitted Catalan economic forces and Aena against ecological movements, neighbours and city councils of the metropolitan area, this afternoon it has been announced that the agreement that unlocks a planned investment of €1.7bn in Catalonia's biggest infrastructure.
The commitment foresees the construction of high-speed train stations in Girona and Reus airports to boost the Catalan airport system and the interconnection between infrastructures. The specific formula to be applied to make El Prat a hub for international flights. As announced last week, the environmental debate (Aena's plans fully affected the Ricarda marshlands, of high ecological value) is postponed: the press release explains that the project will be carried out "with environmental criteria" and that the European Commission will be consulted on any decision that affects protected land.
The agreement is the result of a secret meeting before the bilateral commission this afternoon between the Spanish government and the Generalitat has been another, to specifically address the expansion of El Prat airport. As eldiario.es first learnt and ARA later confirmed, the meeting took place at the headquarters of the Ministry of Transport with the minister, Raquel Sanchez, the vice president of the Government, Jordi Puigneró, the Secretary of State for Transport, Isabel Pardo de Vera, and the president of Aena, Maurici Lucena.
Throughout July, several technical meetings have been held to try to agree on how to act regarding the airport expansion before September 30, the deadline for the Council of Ministers to approve the Airport Regulation Document for the next five years. Aena's proposal involves an investment of €1.7bn to build a satellite terminal that will allow the airport's third runway to be extended by 500 metres. The project is controversial because to carry it out it would be necessary to invade an area protected by the European network Natura 2000.
Puigneró defended the project as "necessary and important for the country". "We are working with a positive and constructive attitude," he said. "We are all making efforts to square this solution, which would be the best for everyone and the best for Catalonia. We cannot afford not to have an intercontinental airport, the economy cannot afford it now," he stressed.
The Minister of Transport, on the other hand, defended on Sunday in La Vanguardia that she intends to be "the guarantor of an exemplary expansion of El Prat airport". "There is a joint clamor of civil society, many institutions and a very important part of the territory that admits that we are facing an investment of more than €1.7bn which we cannot give up," Sanchez said, who believes that the project can contribute to "accelerating the recovery". According to the minister, "environmental issues have to be treated with exquisite care, as well as its effects on the surrounding municipalities".