Business 07/09/2021

Catalan Government does not rule out demonstrating against El Prat reforms it agreed with the State

The entities against the enlargement are preparing a "massive" demonstration and a petition to the European Parliament

4 min
Recent image of the Prat airport runways.

BarcelonaThe demonstration on September 19 against the expansion of El Prat airport is starting to gather supports. This Tuesday it gained a highly peculiar support: the Catalan Government itself has not ruled out turning up at the demonstration with some of its councillors. "I would not be surprised if someone participates," said the executive spokeswoman. The most remarkable thing in this case is that, if confirmed, it would show a Government protesting against itself, as it agreed this reform with the Spanish government. How is this justified? The Generalitat argues that it does want the investment to make changes at the airport, but demands that it has no environmental impact, which it considers Aena does not take into account. It does not want La Ricarda lagoon or any of the protected areas in the area to be affected. Meanwhile, the organisers of the protest are already beginning to present the details.

The government begins to be aware that this is one of the main issues that will mark the agenda from now on and that it will have a double difficulty: the negotiation with the state and street protests. The executive argues that it agreed with the Spanish government to reform the airport so as not to lose the €1.7 billion investment offered by Aena, but that it is not satisfied with the project leaked by the airport operator. The executive's premise, as Plaja explained, is that "the [lagoon of La] Ricarda is off bounds," and therefore it plans to be at the demonstration on September 19. The demonstration will criticise both the Spanish and the Catalan governments management of the issue.

Puigneró, Aragonès, Vilagrà, Giró and Torrent heading towards the executive council meeting.

Government sources assure that they aspire to influence the drafting of the master plan that will end up defining what the reform will be like and that, in this way, they will be able to avoid the environmental affectation as much as possible. But right now they have no guarantee. "We will have to define the master plan and the master plan is where this extension is specified," said Plaja. As long as this does not happen, the executive will have to learn to live with what will inevitably be seen as a contradiction: the Government announced on August 2 a pact with the State to reform the airport and now plans to demonstrate against it. The presence of the Government at the protest could set off sparks between the coalition partners. This Monday, ERC explained that it also foresees to be at the demonstration, a position Junts has doubts about.

The extension of El Prat is also a source of controversy within the Spanish government. PSOE defends the project and Unidas Podemos opposes it head-on. To symbolise this rejection, next week second vice president and Podemos leader Yolanda Díaz will visit La Ricarda with the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau.

Everything is ready

The first major mobilisation against the expansion of El Prat airport is beginning to take shape. The group of associations that two months ago organised to denounce the problems with Aena's project are now ready for a demonstration in Barcelona that they hope will be "massive", will bring together communities, social and political players and which will be coordinated with two parallel concentrations in Madrid and Palma. This Tuesday, four spokespersons of some of these entities have explained that, in addition, they are working on a parliamentary appearance before Catalan politicians and on a petition for the European Parliament to get involved.

But the priority is the demonstration on September 19. This is a mobilisation in Tarragona Street in Barcelona (near the Plaça Espanya), which will have its climax at 12 noon, when it the different columns that will come from the Llobregat delta, the Girona region, Tarragona, el Vallès and even Zaragoza are expected to arrive. "We want everyone to mobilise to denounce governments which, with their backs to the citizens and the protests held for years against this unfair model, are once again presenting a speculative project based on the interests of big capital," said María García, representing Zeroport.

According to her, what is being agreed is that if the 20 million increase in passengers that Aena foresees (and which justifies the extension) is not fulfilled, it will be the State budgets which will be in charge of sustaining the economic hole that will arise. "With this operation they seek to solve their accounting problem," denounced García, who has placed the current debt of the airport management company at €1.3bn.

Joana Gelabert, Carme Arcarazo and Maria Mercet, three representatives of Ni un Pam de Terra, of the Sindicat de Llogaters and of the Xarxa per la Justícia Climática, respectively, accompanied her during the presentation of the mobilisation. The four criticised that the debate is focusing on the invasion of La Ricarda lagoon, when it is also a problem of mobility and economic model. Shortly afterwards, in fact, the Spanish Minister of Labour, Yolanda Diaz, explained that in two days she will visit this natural space with the mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau

Beyond this, the entities that are calling for the demonstration have denounced the fact that there is no project in which the environmental, technical and budgetary implications are analysed, and that the agreement between governments has been closed precisely without this. "In other countries it would take three years to discuss an extension like this," they concluded.

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