The Spanish State against Line 9

The inauguration of the first segment of the Barcelona metro’s Line 9 —joining Zona Universitària and the airport via Fira, where the Mobile World Congress is currently being held— sparked off some controversy when Spain’s Minister for Infrastructure was not invited to the event. The Catalan government gave a simple explanation: Madrid has not spent a penny on Line 9. You could argue that Barcelona city, L’Hospitalet and El Prat haven’t either, but the new line obviously goes through those cities and their mayors had forever demanded that this segment be completed; and now it has been, so they were issued an invitation. This might be a good time, then, to review the relationship between the underground’s Line 9 and the government of Spain.

The Third Additional Provision of the Catalan Statute (TAP) was supposed to guarantee a bare minimum commitment by Madrid to public spending in Catalonia. The TAP, which is in full force and effect and was never amended by Spain’s Constitutional Court (CC), states that the Spanish government’s total public spending on Catalan infrastructures over a seven year period (2007 to 2013) must amount to the equivalent percentage of Catalonia’s contribution to Spain’s GDP. Any outstanding amount after Madrid’s investment must be transferred to Catalonia’s coffers for the Catalan government to invest. This transfer would be made three budget years later: the first year was needed to certify the actual amount spent, the second to budget for the difference with the target set by the TAP, and finally the amount would be sent to Catalonia during the third year, provided that the Catalan authorities could show evidence of completed public works.

Catalan president Montilla chose to have the bulk of the TAP spent on building the L9 and banked on it to speed up the new line’s construction. In 2010 Catalonia received the outstanding amount from 2007, but in 2011 Spanish vice president Elena Salgado froze the payment of the 2008 sum. At the time, Spain’s socialist government justified this move purely on financial grounds: they simply lacked the funds. However, when the PP took over they opposed the TAP on principle. Right from the very first PP budget in 2012, Catalonia’s TAP was wiped off the slate.

Since 2011, the Spanish State has accumulated a huge historic debt with the Catalan government and Catalonia as a whole. The Catalan government has estimated that Spain’s failure to comply with the TAP amounts to nearly €4 bn. Yet Madrid has refused to fulfill its institutional duty. Rather, it has attempted to debase it and to ensure —by means of a CC ruling— that it is under no obligation to pay the TAP. As it has done many times before, the PP has ignored agreements and commitments, imposing its will with legal subterfuges. The PP’s hostility against the TAP has spread to anything that the Catalan government intended to pay for with those funds. They turned down every request by the Catalan authorities to help them complete Line 9, even when they offered to allow Madrid to take credit for the works that had ground to a halt following Catalonia’s budget and financial crisis. Madrid also refused to help finance the outstanding amount and lower the financial costs of the project. Madrid’s hostility has been permanent. Not one euro, not a helping hand, not one gesture.

The cost of completing the segment that runs from Zona Universitària to the airport was under €300 m. Building the second segment —also known as Line 10— that runs underneath Passeig de la Zona Franca will cost roughly the same. The third, central segment —from Zona Universitària to La Sagrera— will be nearly €1 bn. Earmarking the cash from the TAP to complete Line 9 was no fool’s errand. The Spanish government should have recognised that this was a common good infrastructure. But their “statesmanship” manifested itself with the usual mix of hostility and jealousy towards Catalonia and its government. I fail to see how the Spanish minister could possibly be surprised not to receive a formal invitation, at first, to inaugurate a project against which she and her government had fought tooth and nail, a project which has been completed against Madrid’s will. It would have been so easy to collaborate! The whole project would have been finished years ago.