09/09/2021

The El Prat airport fiasco

2 min
New installations of the south code of the T1 of El Prat

The government of the State has considered the agreement to expand El Prat airport agreed on August 2 with the Government of the Generalitat to have been broken off. Therefore, it has suspended the €1.7bn investment whose aim was to convert the airport into an international airline hub while respecting La Ricarda wetlands. The Minister for Transport and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez, has justified the unexpected and drastic decision by citing the "manifest loss of confidence" in the Catalan executive, which in recent days had been distancing itself from the project and had hinted at the involvement of some ERC ministers in the demonstration called against the extension. Undoubtedly, the incoherence on this point within the Aragonès government - one cannot sign an agreement and at the same time mobilise against it - has facilitated Pedro Sánchez's manoeuvre. His government is also divided on the issue, with the minority partner Podemos making its opposition to the enlargement explicit. In fact, vice president Yolanda Díaz had announced a visit to La Ricarda this Tuesday, alongside mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau, who is also opposed to the agreement promoted by airport management company Aena thanks to the support of the Spanish and Catalan governments. The Spanish government has therefore chosen to get rid of a problem by sacrificing a complicated project, which weakened it politically and, moreover, had a notable public opposition. In addition, there remained uncertainty regarding Brussels's position on impacting La Ricarda, which is part of the Natura 2000 network.

The result of all this is that right now, unless someone remedies the situation in the coming days, a key infrastructure for the country will not receive the impetus long demanded by Catalan society. We only have to remember the event at IESE in 2007. There will be no chance to verify the logical misgivings that different sectors had expressed, both from an environmental point of view and from a mistrust of Aena's true intentions - did they really want a hub or just to increase low-cost airlines' passenger capacity?-, through a serious and transparent negotiation. The sad feeling is that neither side has dared enter real fair and square negotiations. Partisan calculations and fear of the noise on social media have prevailed. The objective difficulty of balancing the enlargement with respect for the natural environment called for precision work that no one seems to have wanted to tackle seriously.

In any case, the minister's unilateral breaking of the agreement is a bad omen regarding the executive's real intentions with Catalonia. If the expansion of El Prat airport was so important for the country's economic future - which it is - it should not have been dismissed with such frivolity. An attempt should have been made to find the broadest possible consensus. The promise, as a consolation prize, that other long-overdue investments will be forthcoming is a tune we have heard too many times. If only it were true this time. The fact is that, with the accumulated experience, the State's investment credibility in infrastructures in Catalonia is nil.