23/05/2021

The airport of the famous and remarkable city

4 min
The airport of the famous and remarkable city

Let's congratulate ourselves: we now have a president of the Generalitat. From here my best wishes to President Aragonès. Once the interim period is over, he will have plenty of work to do. His portfolio is full of urgent and important matters.

A transcendental one is to decide if the Generalitat collaborates with Aena to start a process of reform and enlargement of the airport of El Prat. The idea has been spreading that this is a highly complex issue that would require slow consideration. In a recent article in the National Damià Calvet, Minister of Economy of the outgoing government, asked for five years to reflect on the matter.

I think, on the contrary, that the decision is not at all complex. I am not saying this because in my arrogance I believe that my favourable opinion (which I presented in the article of a month ago) will suddenly change many opinions. I say this because the decision falls under its own weight once we understand what we economists call the option value. The airport is managed by Aena. Whether we like it or not, it is Aena who can open the door to its expansion process. It has opened it. I welcome it: I am displeased that when evaluating possible sites for the European Medicines Agency, the Amsterdam airport was more highly regarded than the Barcelona airport. The Generalitat can now decide whether to close the door or give the green light to continue. If the green light is given, a period will begin, which will not be short, of negotiations with the EU, of planning the enlargement, of designing the reconfiguration and expansion of the Natura 2000 network, etc. It will also be in this preparatory phase that, for example, it will be established whether the reform of the wilderness areas has to be completed before the tracks are completed. It will also be a period in which we will be able to observe and clarify more aspects of the development of air navigation, both in terms of its use and its energy efficiency. In short, the bulldozers will not suddenly appear, and as long as they are not there, the process can be stopped if it is convenient. However, if we stop it now, I believe that this will be the end: we will not be able to reopen it. Aena's commitment comes now. If we stop and in a few years' time, in view of new realities, the Generalitat sees the issue more favourably, who can assure us that Aena will reopen the door? Unfortunately, these things do not depend only on cost-benefit analysis. Aena is now guided by this criterion. I have no basis, quite the contrary, for thinking that this is guaranteed to be the case in the future. The value of keeping the option open is very great and the way to maintain it is to accept now to collaborate with Aena in this project.

The Generalitat - or the City Council - would not have to repeat the mistake of the Consell de Cent in the 15th century. King Martí wanted to found a university in Barcelona. The Consell de Cent fiercely opposed him. Forty years later, in 1448, the same Consell was telling the king: "this distinguished and notable city lacks a General Study, which would ennoble it... and would bring great profit and fame” ("En aquesta ciutat insigne i notable li falta un Estudi General, que l’ennobliria... i reportaria gran profit i fama"). It would still be 80 years before Barcelona had university students. Let us be lucid: if one does not have complete control, decisions on large infrastructures call for the practice of opportunism, in the fifteenth century and in the twenty-first century. Note: the quotations are taken from a thesis by A. Fernández Luzón (UB, 2005).

In his article, Calvet gives two reasons, among others, for not collaborating now. The first, which has been repeated many times, is that Europe will not allow it because of the impact on the Natura 2000 network. Well, let's ask them. And not, obviously, to an official in a routine way (and perhaps insinuating that a negative answer is what is wanted) but at the highest level, both from Spain and from the EU. I believe that a good plan will be accepted. Perhaps I am wrong but what is absurd is to move ahead and not negotiate it. The second is original and, in my opinion, a little peculiar: it says that Aena does not want to do it, that it is putting it forward as a kind of lie, that it knows that we will say no and then it can get on with what it is really looking forward to: the extension of Barajas. I don't believe that the project is so Machiavellian, but, my dear Minister, it is very easy to dismantle this possible manoeuvre: all you have to do is surprise and say yes, go ahead.

MIn his article, Minister Calvet states two reasons, among others, for not collaborating now. The first one has been repeated a lot, and it is that Europe will not allow it because of the impact on the Natura 2000 network. Well, let's ask them. And not, obviously, to an official in a routinary way (and perhaps insinuating that a negative answer is what is wanted) but at the highest level, both from Spain and from the EU. I think a good plan will be accepted. Maybe I'm wrong but what is absurd is to move forward and not negotiate it. The second is original and, in my opinion, a little peculiar: it says that Aena does not want to do it, that it is putting it forward as a kind of lie, that it knows that we will say no and then it can get on with what it is really looking forward to: the extension of Barajas. I do not believe that the project is so Machiavellian, but, my friend

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