Vice president considering Barcelona airport expansion plans that minimize environmental impact
Puigneró wants to put forth proposals despite Spanish government withdrawal of €1.7 bn investment
Catalan vice president and territory minister Jordi Puigneró is considering "various scenarios" that would allow for the contentious Barcelona airport expansion to take place while preserving the La Ricarda lagoon nature reserve.
According to sources from the vice president's office, Puigneró's ministry wants to look into proposals within the framework of the Spanish government's master plan despite Madrid's decision to withdraw a €1.7 bn investment that would have increased the number of El Prat passengers from 53 to 70 million a year.
On Saturday, the Barcelona daily La Vanguardia published an article claiming that Puigneró wanted to extend the third runway both to the east and the west, thereby reducing any impact it would have on La Ricarda – Puigneró's office, however, has declined to comment on "non-official proposals."
Spain suspends expansion plans
The Spanish government suspended its 1.7 billion euro investment plan aimed at expanding the Barcelona airport on September 8 after the Catalan government cast doubt on the project into question over environmental concerns.
Spain's Transport minister, Raquel Sánchez, explained that the expansion plan was being withdrawn due to a lack of support from Catalan authorities, rejecting claims that it would have put La Ricarda at risk.
Catalonia responded by accusing Spanish authorities, in the words of Puigneró, of "disloyalty" and of acting "unilaterally."
"Once again, the Spanish government doesn't deliver on its promises to Catalonia," Puigneró said. "How are we supposed to not want independence?"
Catalan president Pere Aragonès, meanwhile, described the Spanish government's surprise announcement as "blackmail", and said that they "never" were truly willing to invest in Catalonia.
Divisions within Catalan government
Members of Catalonia's coalition government do not see eye to eye when it comes to the airport expansion. Puigneró, the highest-ranking official of the Junts per Catalunya party, who led negotiations with the Spanish government, argued that the project did not threaten La Ricarda lagoon, but Aragonès and members of the Esquerra party had openly criticized it, even suggesting that they would attend a protest called by environmentalist groups.
In a press conference not long after plans were put on hold, Puigneró said he regretted the "frivolousness" and "populism" that "once again have harmed Catalonia", and said that progress can't be achieved if essential infrastructure projects are put into question.