Gerard Mateo, 3 August 2021
The members of the bilateral commission / EUROPA PRESS
The smile of the Minister of Territorial Policy, Isabel Rodríguez, after the bilateral commission and the light of the stay in which she attended to the media contrasted with the serious faces of the Catalan Vice President, Jordi Puigneró, and the Minister of the Presidency, Laura Vilagrà in her room to appear before journalists. The Government of Catalonia returns from Madrid with a new airport, which means a great advance in the thaw stage and the first great agreement in recent years between the Government and the independence movement. But the regional executive takes office, which is dedicated to dialogue, to autonomy, after a meeting in which it has not been able to materialize the nationalist demands with which it was presented.
The words also gave away the members of the commission. Rodríguez described the meeting as “successful”, which she defined as a first contact with Catalonia, while Vilagrà referred to the meeting as “insufficient” for her intentions. “We have not achieved the objective,” she resigned. An objective that included up to 56 transfers of powers (among them, the management of the El Prat airport and the gradual expulsion of the Civil Guard from the autonomous community), in a conclave that the independence movement prepared as a new step towards secession. However, the highlight of the day was the agreement for the expansion of the airport facilities, which will involve an investment of 1.7 billion euros. The how will be decided.
Catalonia: “Important Agreement”
Puigneró said, frowning, that they had reached an “agreement”, an “important agreement” for Catalonia to have an intercontinental airport complex “interconnected with high speed with Reus and Girona” where, according to him, there will be two AVE stations. The fact is that El Prat will grow, and not necessarily with the 500-meter extension of the third runway: “The flight plan is extended to 90 connections per hour.” Will this affect the La Ricarda pond? It remains to be seen. In any case, the Generalitat is committed to ensuring that the facilities are respectful of the environment. The European Commission will have the last word on investment, if it damages the ecosystem and is not compensated. The role of the new Transport Minister, Raquel Sánchez, former mayor of Gavà and sensitized to the situation in the area, has also been central to the pact, but also the involvement of Salvador Illa and Jaume Collboni to unblock the situation.
The new El Prat airport also pleases the economic world. Pimec celebrates the agreement and Foment del Treball describes the expansion as “essential” and predicts that “it will generate 350,000 jobs throughout the execution of the project.” Installations that, according to the employers’ association chaired by Josep Sánchez Llibre, will be respectful “under the maximum conditions with the required environmental measures.” Puigneró also referred to this as an opportunity to attract jobs and promote economic growth. However, it doesn’t suit everyone. The environmental sector is positioned against it; the City Council of El Prat speaks of “disloyalty” because no one has asked their opinion; the CUP qualifies it as a “climate attack”. And Barcelona? The municipal government of Ada Colau (BComú) has always been very critical of this project, but the news caught his team out of the office and his response was limited to a tweet from the deputy mayor, Janet Sanz: “Missing of institutional respect ”.
Another gesture of Catalonia Apart from that, the bilateral commission, which lasted a little over two and a half hours, set a calendar to continue talking in the coming months about other transfers, agreements within “the regional regulations” and reviewed by the Ministry of Territorial Policy, in the words of Isabel Rodríguez. “Ultimately, all transfers that can be addressed and that are viable” will be addressed. On the horizon, then, are issues such as the transfer of Rodalies but, in any case, all within the framework of autonomism and away from the demands of Catalan nationalism. At least, a priori. And, in fact, at the headquarters of the Catalan executive in Plaça Sant Jaume they begin to show symptoms that something is changing, even though the combative discourse against the “oppressive state” and independence as a goal is maintained. An example of this was the presence of the Generalitat, at the last minute, in the Sectorial Conference with the rest of the autonomies on the distribution of European funds, after the Government rejected the inclusion of this matter in the bilateral commission as proposed by the Catalan entourage. Days ago, Catalonia was also present, with the Minister of Economy, Jaume Giró, at the Council for Fiscal and Financial Policy. Two gestures that, together with the result of the bilateral commission, can mean a change of course in relations and in management, although the independence movement insists on its postulates and seeks greater self-government to bring secession closer.