Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Catalan mobilization against Spain’s failure to solve chaos at Barcelona airport’s passport control


Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Government has announced an “urgent meeting with all responsible parts involved” in order to address the collapse at the Barcelona airport’s passport control over the past 15 days. Government’s spokesperson Neus Munté considers the Spanish authorities’ “passiveness” an intentional “act of sabotage” against the Barcelona airport. The Spanish government argued that the queues are due to unexpected passenger increase. The Catalan MEP of the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCat), Ramon Tremosa, asked the European Commission to make sure that the Spanish State applies the new EU border regulations against terrorism without harming or inconveniencing Barcelona airport passengers. The Catalan political groups in the Spanish Parliament, in turn, will demand explanations from the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Spanish ministers in the chamber.

Since the weekend of May 1, the long queues at the Barcelona airport’s passport control have not been resolved. Large accumulations of passengers at the Schengen border checkpoints still cause up to two-hour waits, flight delays and lost connections. Over the past two weeks passengers had voiced several times their frustration through social media, accompanying their tweets or posts with photographs that showed the density of the queues at the clearly overwhelmed checkpoints. The Barcelona city council also called on the Spanish administration to solve the problem “urgently”, because it “could damage Barcelona’s image”. Now Catalan national and international representatives are mobilizing against the “passiveness”, “incompetence”, and “boycott” of the Spanish authorities.

Catalan Government calls for urgent meeting

The Catalan government has decided to take action against the “absolute incapacity” and “neglect” of the Spanish authorities towards the collapse at the Barcelona airport’s passport control. As the government’s spokesperson, Neus Munté, explained on Tuesday, the Catalan Executive will call an urgent meeting with the highest representatives of all parts involved, including the Delegate of the Spanish Government, Enric Milló, and representatives of AENA, responsible of the airport’s management. 

Once more, the Delegate of the Spanish Government has denied any lack of action or resources on the Spanish side in a local radio interview this Tuesday. Instead, he blamed the long queues on an increase in passenger numbers, pointing out that Barcelona was “not the only airport with queues” and that in any case “safety comes first”. Meanwhile, passengers have denounced once more long queues, also upon arrival at the Barcelona airport with only 7 of the 24 checkpoints opened, including 2 checkpoints for EU-citizens. The Catalan Government‘s spokesperson Neus Munté considered Millo’s answer “unfortunate” and demanded “at least an apology to the passengers”. In case the Spanish government was not able to solve the problem, Munté suggested to “hand over the keys”, because “Catalan authorities would do so quickly”.

Barcelona airport’s chaos at the European Parliament

According to Ramon Tremosa, representative of the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCat) in the European Parliament, the large queues are “violating European regulations”. In a request to the European Commission the Catalan representative reminds the European authorities that article 15 of the EU-border regulation 2016/399 states that governments have to assure the personnel and resources necessary to conduct external border controls in order to guarantee efficiency. “Passengers at Barcelona airport are the ones who suffer the longest queues at the border controls in the European Union” Tremosa informed in a written question to the European Commission. He also pointed out that “passengers are losing flights because of hours of wait and flight delays due to being stuck at the checkpoints”. The Catalan MEP requested from European authorities to take the measures necessary in order to guaranteee that the Spanish State applies the European regulations accordingly, so passengers at the Barcelona airport don’t suffer discrimination or delays.

Catalan parties call on the Spanish Executive

Representatives of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) in the Spanish Parliament will ask Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, about the long queues at Barcelona airport’s passport control. ERC spokesperson, Joan Tardà, has labeled the “incapacity” of the administration to resolve a purely “logistical problem” as “embarrassing”. Similarly, a spokesperson for the Catalan European Democratic Party (PDeCat) has highlighted the fact that this “is not a one time situation” and therefore the party has requested explanations from the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Public Works and Transport. The Catalan Socialist party (PSC), in turn, has sent a series of questions to the Spanish authorities demanding measures to “prevent the chaos” and questioned the “slow reaction” of the Spanish delegate in Catalonia.

Consumer associations start investigation

The Catalan Ombudsman is also taking measures to resolve the chaos at the Barcelona airport. The representative of the ‘Síndic de Greuges’ has demanded an immediate reaction from AENA and the Spanish police forces in order to solve the crowded passport controls. At the end of April, when the wait at Barcelona airport’s passport controls for exit from and entry into the Schengen area increased up to two hours, the Ombudsman filed an official complaint and publicly criticized that it was “unacceptable that AENA and Spanish Police keep blaming each other without addressing the problem”. The Ombudsman's office also demanded an “immediate response” given that the summer holidays are just around the corner. The Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, also highlighted the fact that the Barcelona airport was the only one that has continuously registered such an increase in waiting time at passport controls. 

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  • Queues at Barcelona airport's passport control (by Gemma Sánchez)