The clamor of the Barcelona society In favor of an airport that is sufficiently equipped and capable of attracting international flights has been a historical constant, more so since in 2006 Iberia decided to withdraw and concentrate its activity in Barajas. The fear that Barcelona would become a ‘low cost’ airport, specialized only in attracting tourists but without long-haul international routes – keys in turn to attract economic activity – motivated at the time the unanimous mobilization of the Barcelona economic society, that with the support of the Barcelona City Council and the Generalitat de Catalunya, presented a manifesto in 2007.
Fifteen years after that initiative, entities, foundations and companies They are mobilizing again, but paradoxically the eyes are not now directed to Madrid, but to the Catalan administrations, which are now the main opponents of the great expansion project that AENA has put on the table – in parallel to Barajas – and that would allow El Prat surpass the risk of saturation which is already observed in the short term. A new terminal and the expansion of the third runway, with a global investment of about 1,700 million, is what is on the table. On the other side of the scale, political misgivings and the environmental cost of the action, which the Catalan administrations cling to to put buts on the project.
In this context, and given the fear that the refusal of the Generalitat and the City Council will lead AENA to withdraw the project, as its president, Maurici Lucena, has already proposed, some 200 entities, among which are the employers’ associations. Fomento del Trabajo y Pimec, the Círculo de Economía, the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, the RACC, the Círculo Ecuestre, the Mobile World Capital, Barcelona Tech City or Esade
they have promoted a manifesto in favor of an extension that they consider “unavoidable”.
«The Barcelona-El Prat Airport, with its current design and configuration, is running out of capacity. The figure of almost 53 million registered travelers in 2019 approached its maximum capacity of 55 million», Starts the manifesto, which will be presented next day 2 in a ceremony at the Esade business school.
“With its expansion, Barcelona Airport will be able to reinforce its role as an intercontinental hub for which we have been fighting for years,” says the manifesto, which links the project to economic recovery. «The expansion of the Airport allows place Catalonia and Barcelona in the world, and not only become a sustainable tourism destination, but also boost economic activity by generating employment, attracting and retaining talent and international investment “, it is added. The Airport would go from generating 7% of Catalonia’s GDP to 9%, and would attract “international business initiatives” to Barcelona, its metropolitan area and Catalonia, “they add.
The speed with which the signatory entities have reached an agreement does not reflect more than the stupor that the Catalan administrations, the Generalitat and neighboring municipalities have generated, those who say no to a project of such magnitude. In the Barcelona City Council, the municipal government is divided. The commons, with Ada Colau at the head, wield environmental reasons, ignoring the expected growth curve of users, pointing against the need to veto short-haul flights that may have a rail alternative. Integrated into the municipal government, the PSC defends the expansion.
If the refusal of the commons was almost taken for granted, what has really caused astonishment is the refusal of the Generalitat, specifically of the Junts, where there is no unanimity on the matter, by the way. Until now, the Minister responsible for infrastructures, Damià Calvet, has stated that his model is that of a networked airport system, in which the aerodromes of Reus and Gerona act as complementary tracks to those of El Prat. The promoters of the manifesto that has been released do not reject this idea -especially the tourist visitor thinking ‘destination to destination’-, but they remember that for an Airport to function as an international’ hub ‘- that is, of interconnection – the operations they must concentrate on a single airport.
The idea that the opposition of the Generalitat has more to do with the fact that the expansion is carried out by AENA, and capitalized by the Government, has penetrated among the Barcelona business community, than with these arguments or environmental problems. The Generalitat and the City Council have always demanded autonomous management for El Prat that allows the Airport to articulate its own airfare policy outside of AENA, something that many of the entities that signed the manifesto also defend, but which now has nothing to do with the expansion project, they remember. «The expansion of the Airport is a neutral decision in relation to its specific management system and does not prejudge it. It simply improves the infrastructure ”, point out the entities precisely in this sense.
Beyond the management model, the main problem that could block the project is of an ecological nature, while the extension of the third track would be carried out on the Ricarda marshes, a natural area with the highest level of protection within the Delta del Llobregat area. The European Commission will have the last word, no less a stumbling block, as is now the lack of decision of the Catalan administrations.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism