From Barcelona to Shanghai via Edinburgh

by Víctor Terradellas and Francesc de Dalmases

The Chinese multinational Hutchinson is about to complete a new container terminal as part of the Port of Barcelona. It represents an initial, strategic investment of three hundred million euros that should serve to strengthen the role of the Port of Barcelona as a gateway to goods entering Europe and confirm its place as the leading Mediterranean port.

We say ‘should’ because the terminal only makes sense if it has access to the necessary road and rail links. The Chinese multinational thought it could count on these transport links which had been decided upon by the Catalan authorities and the Spanish government, in an agreement reached a decade ago. Unfortunately, the latter was unable to complete the links on time and is still unable to set a date for completion in the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, during the same period Spain has had time to inaugurate several high-speed lines that were not even based on viability studies. This has led to some embarrassing consequences, with lines that failed to reach a daily average of nine passengers six months after their inauguration, resulting in them subsequently being abandoned as a disastrous investment. Spain also had time to build fifty-two commercial airports of which only eight are profitable.

If we ever ask ourselves why there are a group of nations in Europe that we call NEEWS (New Emerging European Western States) the answer is that most of the countries have their own language, culture and tradition, but it is also due to political processes that have much to do with the inability of certain states to logically and coherently administer their infrastructure policies, and thus ensure progress and a viable future for their citizens.

Some European states are unable to separate their radial vision of planning from the need to serve and take into account the relevant European dimension

Some of these states, and Spain is a perfect example, are unable to separate their radial and Jacobin vision of planning from the need to serve and take into account the relevant European dimension. The new cargo terminal in the port of Barcelona is a case in point. It also serves to illustrate the Spanish government’s efforts to weaken European support for the Mediterranean corridor in favour of a far-fetched central railway line that in its delirium is supposed to tunnel under the Pyrenees as far as Zaragoza, with a price-tag which it’s impossible to pay, thus making it commercially unviable.

Catalonia, Scotland, Flanders, Northern Ireland and Euskadi do not see their respective processes of political emancipation as a means of European exclusion. Instead they invest their efforts in them in order to avoid missing the boat (or the train or plane) that has to establish them as an inseparable part of the European network and, in turn, the global network.

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