Sánchez puts El Prat expansion on hold for good

Disagreements between the governments close the door on the plan

3 min
Pedro Sánchez and Pere Aragonès, before their meeting at the Palau de la Generalitat.

BarcelonaThe El Prat expansion project derailed a week ago and a notary was needed to certify its death. This role has been assumed this Wednesday by the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez: "The government parks the expansion project of El Prat"; he said. The subject of his sentence, it goes without saying, was the Spanish executive. Sanchez, however, has again insisted that the cause of this decision is the same that the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sanchez, made last Thursday, when she announced by surprise that the work on El Prat was suspended: the lack of consensus with the Generalitat, a consensus seen as essential. "There is not a mature position in the Generalitat in favour of the extension", she added.

After the first meeting of the negotiating table, the president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, ratified this version: "It came out during the conversation and we noted the lack of consensus between the two governments regarding the expansion proposal that Aena had made". The Catalan president, who wanted to clarify that they discussed the issue "very briefly", confirmed his differences with the proposal of the Spanish government and Aena: "I continue to argue that any improvement of the infrastructures of our country has to meet all the requirements of environmental protection and has to take into account the fight against climate change". Aragonès also insisted, once again, on his opinion that "the best way to guarantee a good future for all the country's infrastructures, but also for El Prat airport, is for it to be managed from Catalonia".

During the last week, the two governments have exchanged criticisms, in a scenario poisoned by the fact that the agreement they reached last 2 August to expand the airport was verbal. This made it impossible to verify the extent to which the project had already affected La Ricarda protected area, which for the republicans in the Catalan government was a red line. In recent days, the argumentative judo between the two executives has exploited this grey area of the verbal agreement: the two men summoned each other to return to 2 August, in a reciprocal accusation of the fact that they had changed their position on the extension, which involved an investment of 1.7 billion euros by Aena, a company in which the state has a 51% stake.

Foment's failed attempt

The plan, which had its main supporters, on the one hand, in the administration linked to the PSOE and the PSC and, on the other hand, in Junts and, thirdly, in the majority of economic actors, among which we must highlight unions and employers linked to the tourism sector, has had in Foment del Treball its main sponsor since last May. Perhaps this is why in the last week Josep Sanchez Llibre, president of the employers' association of large Catalan companies, had redoubled efforts to try to save the negotiation on El Prat. On the one hand, he had tried to include the subject in an event that he was preparing to criticise the position of the City Council of Barcelona in economic matters and, on the other hand, he offered the suspension of this event in exchange for talking to the negotiating table between the two governments, as advanced by the ARA. In fact, there was the possibility of postponing the decision on Aena's investment plan for a year, but finally the two governments have chosen to bury the issue.

Among the reasons for this abrupt end there are economic ones, such as the need for Aena not to postpone its investments, but also political: the two governments understood that they have already suffered a strong erosion in terms of image after stopping a plan that in August they considered good. In addition, within the government there were more disagreements about the project than the ones that had already surfaced. El Prat, therefore, definitively misses the enlargement train in the five-year period 2022-2026.