Barcelona / MadridThe refurbishment of the airport begins this afternoon on August 2 in Madrid and from minute 1 it is full of glances and mistrust among those who, in theory, should have made it possible. Distrust between the Spanish government and the Generalitat, but also between partners of each executive. The PSOE and Podemos have not worked in coordination – rather the opposite – and neither JxCat nor ERC have maintained the same position, although they have tried to disguise it. The result: a failed investment and many cross-reprimands.
A bad start
The first chapter of this story already begins badly. The pre-agreement of 2 August between the Ministry of Transport (PSOE) and the Ministry of Territory (JxCat) takes place on the same day that the Generalitat-State Bilateral Commission met, also in Madrid. ERC, which is aware of the meeting at the ministry, wanted the day’s prominence to be for the Commission, chaired by Republican councilor Laura Vilagrà, and for the pact to be announced by the president, Pere Aragonès, the next day. But the news of the airport explodes and the Bilateral practically ceases to exist. “Sometimes the important news for the country ends up leaking. That’s what happened. Today was the day to explain it well,” lamented Vilagrà.
This, in the end, would be the smallest of problems. When the news is known, there are celebrations, but also criticism, some of the key parties for the governance of Catalonia in terms of budgets. The CUP does not want to hear about it and the commons, despite being in the Spanish government, immediately oppose it. The mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau, leaves the rejection together with the mayor of El Prat, Lluís Mijoler, although her party, Unides Podem, has a seat on the council of ministers from where the project is promoted.
ERC and JxCat have internal response. Republican youth, the Baix Llobregat federation and important voices such as Joan Tardà immediately oppose it for environmental reasons. In fact, ERC creates a working group to discuss enlargement, which met during August -sometimes with the presence of Raül Romeva- and where there have been positions of all kinds: from supporters -with nuances- from Aena’s proposal to frontal opponents.
In Together the doubts are less important, but there are also detractors. The president of the Parliament, Laura Borràs, or the ex-president Quim Torra -who does not have a party card-, among them. Puigneró tries to appease the critics by assuring on the 3rd that it will be “the greenest airport in Europe” and Aragonès states that the only agreement is that 1.7 billion euros will be invested in Catalonia and the rest is all still to be defined: “The agreement is only a starting point to expand Barcelona airport, but the project will have to meet the environmental requirements of the European Union.”
But Aena’s statement on day 2 had a detail that that day would go largely unnoticed but that would end up being the mother of all battles: “The extension of runway 07R / 25L to the east will be carried out.” That is, towards the protected area of La Ricarda. ERC sources say they were already on alert – “That’s not what we agreed on,” they move – and that they were assured that was not what had been discussed at the meeting. Sources from Junts, on the other hand, state that from the beginning Aragonés (and Esquerra) knew that in order to expand El Prat airport, the Ricarda area (to the east) had to be affected because to the west , also a protected area, “the meters are what they are”. From Junts they explain that Puigneró went to Madrid to fulfill what it had previously agreed with the president: to agree the extension of the airport with the “minimum” of environmental affectation and the fast connection of the airport of Barcelona with the of Reus and Girona.
Dora raises the temperature
The Dora, which had rarely been part of the public debate until now, is the Airport Regulation Document, which regulates infrastructure fares and conditions. It envisages the investments that Aena will make in its network of airports in the state and must be approved by the Council of Ministers before 30 September. On September 3, the draft was reported at a meeting of the Airport Coordination Committee of Catalonia, where different administrations are represented, including the Generalitat. In this document, Aena puts on the table the extension of the track “to the east” and states that it would affect “areas of the Natura 2000 Network” anticipating that it will be necessary to buy land nearby to compensate for the destruction of an area with a high ecological value. Is this a novelty with respect to the pact of August 2? For the Catalan president, yes. The same Friday Aragonese makes a tweet assuring that it “does not reflect” the consensus within the Government and demands that it be rectified. However, according to Junts sources, there is nothing new about what was already known – an interpretation that AENA also makes – as they maintain that at the time the Generalitat accepted the expansion of the airport, the affectation of the Natura 2000 Network. The doubt was, they say, to what extent it would occur, which had to be discussed in a future master plan in which the Generalitat wanted -according to the same sources- to minimize the environmental impact the filter of the Ministry of Climate Action, the Ministry of Ecological Transition and the European Commission. A process that could take years.
The Aragonese tweet annoys Puigneró and the two are set to address the issue on Saturday taking advantage of the coexistence of the coalition executive, where it is agreed to make pineapple with the expansion of El Prat airport, but without “destroying” -in the words of the spokesperson, Patrícia Plaja- the lagoon of Ricarda. This is, for Junts, a new endorsement of the Left to the pact signed by Puigneró on August 2, who point out that when it is limited to “the lagoon” it is because it is aware that there are a few meters to the east of the track that are also part of the Ricarda area that will be affected by the project. The department, in this sense, had studied extending it about 300 meters to the pond. Calculations that, in any case, had to be specified later in the discussion of the master plan with the Spanish government and Aena. “ERC first took on agreements that later made it uncomfortable,” they say from Together, which point to a change in the position of Republicans. For ERC, the version is different. They say they never gave the green light to the expansion to the east and that they trusted everything that everything else would be discussed with the master plan. “Our red line was Ricarda and the environmental criterion,” they insist.
ERC is considering going to the rally
With all the mistrust fully settled, last Monday, the deputy general secretary of ERC, Marta Vilalta, assures that her party does not rule out going to the demonstration against the enlargement. The argument: they want the investment of 1.7 billion euros, but they don’t want it to have the environmental impact that Aena works with. He says Republicans are “likely” to be in protest “somehow.” The next day, government spokeswoman Patrícia Plaja said she would not be “surprised” that a member of the executive council also took part. The possible presence of Esquerra in the protest makes Junts uncomfortable, and Puigneró moves him to Aragonès. The commons, in turn, also announce that they will be in protest despite being part of the Spanish government.
Executive sources consulted by ARA interpret that the spokeswoman did not want to close the door on any possibility, but say that in no meeting of the Government was it considered never to go to the demonstration, not even among ERC councilors . To complicate matters further, it is also known that the second vice-president of the government, Yolanda Díaz, will visit Ricarda on Thursday to express her rejection of the enlargement. The expansion promoted by his own government.
In parallel with the tug-of-war in Catalonia, in Madrid there was also another among members of the executive. United We can from the beginning has been against the enlargement in spite of endorsing it, in practice, when the State closes the pact with the Generalitat. Yolanda Díaz, pressures the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, to stop the investment. Even in the PSOE there were environmental doubts, such as those expressed in private by Minister Teresa Ribera -responsible for the field of ecological transition-, but never wanted to make public battle on the issue.
Whether or not the action of Podem has been effective -from Moncloa they deny it-, Sánchez suspends the expansion of the airport and announces it by surprise on Wednesday. The Minister of Transport and former Mayor of Gavà, Raquel Sánchez, urgently convenes a press conference and points out that the Generalitat is the only culprit in the reversal to doubt the project. The news counterbalances Left and Together. Aragonès finds out about it by returning by train after the meeting with his Valencian counterpart, Ximo Puig. Puigneró only a few minutes after the ministry’s press call came out due to a brief call from Raquel Sánchez. Today Yolanda Díaz was at Ricarda celebrating the decision.
Thus disappear 1.7 billion euros of investment.
Source: Ara.cat – Portada by www.ara.cat.
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