The preliminary rejection of the request for prior assessment of the feasibility of Montijo airport, decided by the ANAC (National Civil Aviation Agency), re-opens the process of locating the new Lisbon airport.
In this context, it is worth remembering what the PSD defended in its 2019 election manifesto, in which it proposed a reassessment of alternative solutions, namely that “the review of the Alcochete solution is recommended, even if this involves renegotiating the contractual terms of the concession”.
In the middle of the pre-election campaign and without knowledge of the environmental impact declaration of the Montijo solution, Prime Minister António Costa attacked the position of the PSD, declared: “Today there is no plan B” (9.09.2019) and criticized the “hesitation” and “creativity” of the greatest Opposition party.
The problems raised by the environmental impact assessment and the solutions required by the concessionaire to overcome these problems have only demonstrated the responsible position taken by the PSD. Even so, the government decided to proceed with the Montijo solution. However, he was faced with the negative opinions of two Communist Party-led municipalities – his partner and parliamentary supporter of the government solution – and with a legislative decree drafted by a former socialist government that gave legal basis to the government’s veto, the Montijo solution.
António Costa’s government is used to the fact that many people are exposed to his blackmail and count on the invaluable contribution of some media. She proposes an amendment to the rule that allows a municipality to veto and places the burden of approving the PSD on the extent of the Montijo solution. The PSD didn’t bend and the change didn’t pass. Had it not happened, it would have resulted in an undeniable violation of one of the principles of the rule of law. However, I don’t remember the many commentators in the media room criticizing the government for promoting this violation.
In summary, the socialist government has always chased after the loss – this seems to be the hallmark of its political culture in this as in other areas – instead of being guided by clear and consensual strategic options. The anticipated decision by ANAC forced the government to back off and do now what should have been done a few years ago. It is recognized that the pandemic removed the pressure and urgency of the solution, but introduced unpredictable factors related to tourism and air transport demand for the years to come.
The interests defended by the concessionaire are legitimate, but there is no justification for providing unreasonable estimates, with millions being thrown into public space without explaining the parcels and the reasons for such complex operations.
In this context, the position of the PSD remains as it has been expressed since its election manifesto and presupposes the following prerequisites:
1. Elaboration of a strategic environmental assessment in which the solutions “Portela + Montijo”, “Montijo + Portela” and “Alcochete” are subjected to a comparative assessment. Assessing this study by an independent and credible body is the first step in deciding the best solution. The PSD is bound by the decision made, provided the technical-scientific basis is strict and impartial. In this, as in other areas of political life, there are no clear solutions and there are always “plans B” as long as there is the political will to take them into account. Blackmail, political tactics and populist election campaigns cannot defend the national interest.
2. Portugal urgently needs a national strategic plan for the airport sector. The fact that the main civil airports have been given to a private entity does not absolve the state from the responsibility of ensuring the national interest in the sector and its articulation with the recovery plan of TAP and other national airlines, as well as with the rail network, present and projected. We want to know the development potential of the various civil airports, how each of them can become a lever for regional development, what functions and competitive advantages they can represent. Without this instrument, we will tend to reproduce the controversies that have multiplied in our country for more than 50 years without learning from the experiences observed.
3. By fulfilling the previous requirements, PSD can enable the amendment to the law by which the municipalities are deprived of the effective authority to veto projects of national interest. First, because it’s an unjust law. Second, because it is to be discussed and approved in the Assembly of the Republic, it is no longer the product of a government device that undermines the rule of law. There is a difference between changing a diploma to solve a specific problem and implementing a new competence framework shared between central and local administrations in relation to projects of national interest.
In the last few weeks we have seen the “numbers war” over the various possible solutions. Let us see that there are no optimal solutions, only fewer bad solutions. None of them are going to bring together a broad consensus even if they don’t because no one wants to get back on the ground.
The interests defended by the concessionaire are legitimate, but there is no justification for feeding baseless estimates in which millions are thrown into the public square without explaining the parcels and the reasons for such complex operations. Those who seek increased legitimacy by invoking science or technology also do not do the best they can if their arguments are deceptive. The same goes for environmentalists. What I’ve observed amounts to very little: in each of the solutions we always find scientists with high curricula, engineers with a lot of work, and militantly active environmental groups for each of the causes. Everyone needs political decisions as long as they don’t want to appear innocent. Conviction does not make opponents guilty.
Vice President of the PSD
The author writes according to the new orthographic convention