Spain and Catalonia still support MidCat pipeline project despite French opposition

EU leaves decision to "concerned member states" as infrastructure not of "common interest" for Europe

Image of a protest against the MidCat pipeline (by NGO Friends of the Earth)
Image of a protest against the MidCat pipeline (by NGO Friends of the Earth) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 6, 2022 05:14 PM

The Catalan and Spanish governments still support the MidCat pipeline project despite French president Emmanuel Macron's opposing the infrastructure on Monday. The Catalan authorities believe that it was a "realistic and beneficial option for Europe," Patrícia Plaja, the cabinet spokesperson said during a press conference on Tuesday.

In a similar position, Spain's vice president and minister for ecological transition Teresa Ribera suggested that the MidCat pipeline project concerns all of the European Union member states.

In fact, the pipeline could unite Africa to Europe via Catalonia may be one of the topics to discuss at an extraordinary meeting between EU’s energy ministers in Brussels on Friday.

"It is an open debate," Ribera said during a press conference, as this topic will be on the table "for a long time" as European gas supplies issues will go beyond this winter, she expected.

Ribera addressed Spanish media after the European Commission rejected giving support to the pipeline project.

"Any additional cross-border infrastructure project linking the Iberian peninsula with the rest of Europe needs to be further assessed by the member states concerned and by the project promoters," Tim McPhie, European Commission spokesperson for Climate Action and Energy, said during the daily midday briefing. 

"So, really, at this stage, the Commission cannot take a position on any specific project," McPhie said before adding that the infrastructure is "pending further assessment so, it’s not on the list of projects of common interests." 

However, Ribera mentioned that the list of projects was last updated before the Russian problem and that is part of the "important infrastructures annex."  

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez later confirmed that the executive will continue "requesting the interconnectivity between the Iberian peninsula and the rest of the continent," he said during a speech in the Spanish senate.

"This is not a bilateral issue between the Iberian peninsula and France," he said before adding that "we are debating on how to reinforce the European Union’s energy supplies alternatives."

Catalan and Spanish politicians showed their support for the project after the French president said it was a "nonsense" project and that there was "no evidence" of a need to complete the half-finished infrastructure.

Right now, the pipeline ends in the north-central town of Hostalric in Girona, an hour north of Barcelona.

Paris had for weeks been skeptical of plans, which would imply not only reaching the border with France, but ending north of the Pyrenees in Barbairan, close to Carcassone – that is, over 200 km.

Thus, France's agreement and funding are needed to finish the works.

Last Tuesday the French economy minister, Bruno Le Maire, told the press: "Spain and Germany are very close allies to France, and when they put forward a proposal, we consider it.

Yet, after Macron's comments, the chances that the infrastructure goes ahead look very slim. 

For him, building a third pipeline connecting Spain to France makes no sense because the existing ones are "underused," because they are at 53% of their capacity, and in August, it was France the one exporting gas to Spain and not the other way round.