The expansion of the El Prat airport will continue to be paralyzed and the Government of Pedro Sánchez does not consider seeking a new agreement with the Generalitat of Catalonia within the framework of the bilateral negotiation table that started in Barcelona. “The Government of Spain parks this expansion of El Prat because there is not the necessary consensus necessary to address this important investment,” said the Prime Minister himself after his meeting of almost two hours with the President of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès.
Sánchez insisted on blaming the lack of agreement within the pro-independence government of Esquerra Republicana (ERC) and Junts to launch the investment of 1,700 million euros projected in the Barcelona airfield. “In the opinion of the Government of Spain, there is no mature position in the Government of Catalonia to address a strategic investment of this magnitude,” said the socialist leader, who acknowledged that little time had been spent in the meeting given their differences in an investment that the Catalan employers consider essential.
In fact, the Minister of Transport and Mobility, Raquel Sánchez, finally did not attend the meeting as planned, after only three members of ERC appeared at the negotiating table from the Catalan side after the discrepancies with Junts, which sought to have representatives outside of its Executive.
The controversy over the blocking of investment for Catalan infrastructure after the rejection of the Government was also the reason for the clash between the Prime Minister and the ERC spokesman in the Congress of Deputies, Gabriel Rufián. The Republican blamed the socialist that “an investment is not a gift and that a negotiation is not a surrender.”
According to Rufián, “we are always willing to dialogue and talk, but negotiating from you to you. Impositions, not one”. In his answers, Sánchez recalled the differences between the pro-independence partners for this project and has defended that the one in El Prat is a “great investment necessary for Catalonia” and a good one for Barcelona, which included compensatory measures for the affectation of La Ricarda and that it intends turn the airport into an “intercontinental hub”. In the parliamentary headquarters, Sánchez demanded that ERC “return to the agreement of August 2” in order to continue with the project. Likewise, the Government attended the meeting of the dialogue table with an update of its Agenda for the reunion in which it maintains that it “ensures to maintain” its plans for the expansion and improvement of the Barcelona airport.
The long-awaited meeting of the bilateral negotiating table after two years of the first meeting once again showed the great distances between the two governments, although both Sánchez and Aragonès agreed to highlight the political importance of the image of both together. “The images are important from a political point of view,” Sánchez insisted when questioned about the lack of concrete progress and points of consensus, and insisted on the relevance of the “political message” that they want to overcome this conflict situation.
For his part, Aragonès considered the simple fact of the meeting at the Palau de la Generalitat as a victory for the postulates of the Government. The Catalan president valued it as progress and “a new starting point”. Another of the common points defended by the heads of the two delegations was not to set deadlines for the development of the negotiations. Sánchez insistently repeated that the philosophy of the talks should be “work slowly but surely and without deadlines.” According to the socialist president, it will only be possible to move forward “without putting a date on the resolution of this conflict.”
Aragonès considered the meeting as a victory for the independentistas
A few words with which he seems to seek to gain time in the face of uncertainties both within the Catalan Government and in Spanish politics and which were endorsed by Aragonese, by ensuring that the contacts “will require time and perseverance.”
In practice, the two presidents held completely different positions on the substance of the problem. While Aragonés insisted on pursuing the referendum on self-determination and amnesty as fundamental objectives, Sánchez stated that the framework to be negotiated should be the agenda for the reunion proposed by his Executive, which includes demands from Catalan governments of the last decade and prior to the rupture of the process.
Sánchez also assured that the meeting did not talk about the negotiation of the next General State Budgets, for which he needs the support of ERC.
Investments and transfers, on the agenda
With the start of the negotiation table, now the work will be transferred to the delegations created to address specific issues. In the most immediate calendar, two main topics appear as the object of the next appointments: investments in infrastructures and transfers of competences. Thus, in the bilateral commission that was held on August 2, both parties agreed that during the month of September the Infrastructure Investment Commission will be held to comply with the agreed four-month monitoring of the degree of execution of the investments programmed in Catalonia.
Its intention is that this volume complies with the Statute and that it is not lower than the average of the totality of the territorialized state investment. Regarding the powers, of the 56 transfers requested by the Generalitat, the ministries are preparing reports to evaluate their viability and deadlines. In addition, the Economic and Fiscal Affairs Commission is expected to meet in December.
In any case, and after the photograph of this Thursday with Sánchez and Aragonès at the head of the dialogue table, the Catalan president appealed to discretion in the meetings “to guarantee that progress can be made.”