Spanish Parliament: Catalan institutions must “participate in the deciding majority” of Barcelona airport

The Spanish Parliament has formally asked the Spanish Government to decentralise the management of the Barcelona airport and have Catalan institutions deeply involved. All the groups in the Parliament, including the ruling Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), have voted in favour of the motion presented by the Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Party (CiU) with the exception of the Conservative and Spanish Nationalist People’s Party (PP).

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

September 16, 2010 01:16 AM

Madrid (ACN).- Catalan institutions have been asking to participate in the decision making process regarding the strategic Barcelona airport for many years. This issue has been an historical vindication in many negotiations between Catalan forces and the Spanish Government. In states with a centralist tradition such as France, local powers participate in airport decision-making, such as Paris’ airports. In Spain, everything is decided in Madrid by a body that depends directly on the Spanish Government. This policy has enabled the Madrid-Barajas airport to turn into an intercontinental hub and grow exponentially in number of passengers. The airport has investments that almost quadruple those of Barcelona’s airport. As an example, the new airport terminal in Barcelona’s El Prat airport that was unveiled in June 2009 has no railway connection and the situation will remain this way until 2013. Now, the Spanish Parliament has officially asked the Spanish Government to allow Catalan institutions to participate in Barcelona’s airport decision-making process and be part of the majority.

The Centre-Right Catalan Nationalist Party (CiU) proposed a motion that was approved yesterday by the Spanish Parliament after having been already been approved in the Senate. All the groups voted in favour of the motion but the Conservative and Spanish Nationalist People’s Party (PP), which paradoxically had voted in favour of the motion in the Senate. The ruling Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) voted in favour. In fact, the Spanish Government already made a proposal to decentralise the management of the Barcelona-El Prat and Madrid-Barajas airports, Spain’s two largest airports. However, the proposal was very far away from Catalan vindications as the Spanish Government still had 51% of the votes, giving them the power to block any decision.

Currently the airport is managed from Madrid by the central managing body of all Spanish airports, AENA, which depends on the Spanish Ministry of Public Works. AENA made the Madrid-Barajas airport its main priority 15 years ago with Aznar’s first government. The result is that Iberia pulled out of El Prat and placed its brand new low-cost company, Clickair (nowadays merged with the Catalan Vueling), in the airport. According to experts such as Germà Bel, economics professor at the University of Barcelona, AENA’s intervention creates fake competition and disturbs the market. Madrid-Barajas is the airport with the biggest deficit but it is promoted as the only hub in Spain. Barcelona is reserved as a paradise for low-cost companies, which in the long run will harm Catalonia’s international connections and thus its competitiveness. For instance, as much as 23 agreements oblige companies form certain states to operate exclusively out of Madrid. Another example is the authorisation of Singapore Airlines to operate from El Prat. The petition was made in February and no official answer has  been received by the airline yet.