SECRETARY general of the Majorcan Union (UM) party, Damia Nicolau, declared his opposition to the enlargement of Palma airport yesterday.
Despite predictions made by central government which claim some 38 million passengers will be using Son Sant Joan airport by 2015, Nicolau believes the works are unnecessary.
Nicolau claimed that the estimates for passenger traffic couched within the enlargement project are excessive and need to be corrected.
He reported that 26 million passengers are estimated in 2005, while in 2004, the figure of only 20 million is the benchmark. We want to have a growth commensurate with the capacity of our Island territory, its economy, its society and culture, declared Nicolau.
He nevertheless gave backing for the idea of extending the facilities of the airport within the existing structure, by making the most of dead design space.
This, he believed, will facilitate the provision of better services to passengers.
In the light of this judgement, the UM are presenting a motion on the enlargement of Palma airport at the next session of Parliament, as well as another related proposal on the reduction of air fares.
The party's parliamentary spokesman, Miquel Nadal, commented that his party will also ask Parliament that as a priority, legal statutes be put in place to transfer decision-making powers on airport managment from central to regional government.
Nicolau demanded full consensus on this issue.
Miquel Nadal lamented the fact that the enlargement of the airport is a theme which does not depend on political colour, but on whether or not governmental decisions are made in Madrid. When such decisions are made in Madrid, he claimed, they (central government) are in favour of the airport enlargement, and when the decision is made here, it's the other way round he signalled.
He explained that when the Partido Popular (currently in power in the Balearic Islands) was governing in Madrid (it has now been replaced by a Socialist Administration), they wanted the airport enlarged but the Balearic government (at that time a Socialist coalition) opposed it; and now the Partido Popular in the Balearics opposes the expansion and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party believes that the enlargement won't have a negative environmental impact.
Making reference to the position of the Partido Popular (PP), Nadal purported that the PP is against disproportionate growth of Son Sant Joan airport because they approved planning directive which included not enlarging the airport.
Separately, Nadal considered it fundamental that the Balearic government, the Council of Majorca and town councils should take part in managing the airport and revealed that the UM will ask Parliament to recognise this and give priority to including it in the changes planned to the autonomy statutes. It is strategically important for the Islands to be able to take part in decisions about the airports signalled Nadal. He illustrated this point by saying that such powers would become an integral part of policy-making for influencing the extention of the tourist season through raising or lowering airport taxes.
Nadal was confident that this transfer would be achieved within the term of office of the present government and pointed to the sensitivity of the new Spanish government, which, he said, had included this sharing of airport management in their manifesto.