The agreement to expand El Prat, hasty and too vague

2 min
Aiguamolls in the surroundings of the Prat airport.

Monday an important agreement for the future of the country was reached in Madrid which significantly compromises the economic model for the coming years. A pact led by the vice-president Jordi Puigneró and the minister Raquel Sánchez which has shaken the Catalan political and business world because the meeting was held in secret, the same day that there was the Bilateral Commission, which was completely diluted, and without waiting for the conclusions of the working table that the Generalitat had launched to define the future of El Prat. The excuse for the urgency is that Aena and PSOE urged the signing of this agreement because on 30 September the Dora 2022-2026 plan, which regulates the investments of the Spanish airport manager, has to be approved, and with the threat that the promised 1.7 billion investment would be melted if the agreement was not signed.

The problem is that this all or nothing means mortgaging the future debate not only about what El Prat and the natural areas that surround it should be, which will clearly be diminished and touched if the new runway is built, but also about the economic model that is to be prioritised in the coming times. We are at a time of paradigm shift in which there is unanimous agreement that nothing can be as it has been until now because the climate crisis forces us to reduce emissions, also and significantly in aircraft, and to do so we will have to change the models of mobility and predatory economy of territory and energy that existed until now. What this future will be like is not yet known, and it is urgent that we begin to think and articulate it, but it is almost certain that it will not be like it was before, when the expansion of the airport with the satellite terminal was foreseen, nor as it could have been foreseen in 2019, before this pandemic that is changing everything.

The agreement is inconcrete and the document that has been made public leaves for autumn, once the Dora has been approved, the debate on how the concrete project will be and how it will try to safeguard the protected natural areas of the Llobregat delta that will be affected by the expansion. The president of the Government, Pere Aragonès, assured this Tuesday that it will be done "scrupulously satisfying the environmental regulation", but all this is very inconcrete and naturally worries the parties -such as the comuns and the CUP, as well as social and environmental organisations, who oppose the project. The agreement also foresees the high-speed connection between El Prat and the airports of Girona and Reus with the aim that they could be auxiliary runways only 30 minutes away from what they want to transform into an intercontinental hub. It has not been defined, however, how this can be done and what advantages El Prat can provide for airlines to compete with Barajas to attract long-haul flights, nor, given the experience of the past, how having AVE stations in the three airports can be achieved in just ten years - the project is supposed to be finished by 2030. They have not wanted to explore other possible options and have taken the short cut, but it is very worrying that this agreement has been reached without sufficient social and political consensus. It will take a lot of technical and political work to straighten out what appears to be a hasty and dangerously inconcrete agreement.