Spain: millions for an airport without planes

The budget deficit that the Spanish government has to make up is 8.9 percent. But Madrid is not the only one to blame for this: millions have been misinvested in the autonomous regions of Spain in recent years – for example for an airport where no planes land.

By Daniel Sulzmann, ARD radio studio Madrid

Finance Minister Christobal Montoro said it twice last week: "No hay dinero", in German: "We just have no more money."

And the "culprits" who caused the big hole were quickly identified even after the new conservative government took office. It was the autonomous communities of Spain. Because they contributed significantly to the high deficit of 8.9 percent that the Rajoy government found when it took office in 2012.

It’s just stupid that the autonomous communities are predominantly governed by the party of Mariano Rajoy and that the debt situation could therefore not be blamed on the previous government.

Goodwill of the regional parties bought with grants

There are 17 autonomous communities in Spain. They roughly correspond to the German federal states, but, as in the case of the Basque Country or Catalonia, have much more far-reaching autonomy rights. This brings with it strange results: For example, police officers in the autonomous areas earn more than their colleagues in Madrid who are employed by the central government. That can be twice as much.

In recent years it has also been problematic that the Spanish governments have always been dependent on small regional parties in parliament and have had to buy their goodwill with financial concessions. The current government no longer has to because it has a comfortable absolute majority.

"This is not an area to fail"

The Autonomous Community of Valencia, which now wants to be the first to crawl under the bailout fund of the central government, is a very special case. There is, for example, an airport in Castellón, north of Valencia, which has been built at great expense: this airport cost a mere 300 million euros. But an airplane will never take off or land here. The whole thing is a prime example of the waste of money in Spain’s regions.

One of the biggest supporters, the President of the District Council of Castellón, Carlos Fabra, found it particularly serious to inaugurate the airport after its completion last year, although not even the approval for its operation had been obtained: "Nobody needs to think that this project will fail, "he announced. "This is not an area to fail in. Castellón, Castellón, Castellón!"

But from "Castellón, Castellón, Castellón!" became nothing. To date, no aircraft has taken off or landed. And in Spain there are half a dozen such subsidy ruins, which, incidentally, mostly served to encourage regional politicians to illegally claim their pockets at the expense of their region.

From the "benefactor" to the dock

The then Prime Minister of the Region of Valencia, Francisco Camps, was also present in Castellón. What he said at the opening of the ghost airport sounds rather unusual from today’s perspective: "It is structures like this that create work, wealth, prosperity, pride, identity, strength and profit for everyone." Camps, the man with pathos who inaugurated the airport after this speech of prosperity, pride, identity, strength and wealth, is sitting in the dock of a court today and has to answer for corruption.

In the meantime, Carlos Fabra’s daughter has made a name for herself because she said "que se jodan!" When Prime Minister Rajoy announced the austerity decisions in the Spanish parliament at the exact moment when it came to the cuts in the unemployed. shouted across the plenary, which is very, very vulgar and which – pardon me – means something like "should they fuck each other".

In a country that has 5.6 million unemployed, shouting something like this across parliament is not well received. In the end she had to apologize.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the autonomous community of Valencia is so broke through all these machinations that it had to seek help under the government umbrella on Friday. It was of no use if Finance Minister Montoro put a kind of debt brake through parliament, which basically obliges the autonomous regions not to spend more money than they earn. Valencia needs two to three billion euros from the central government anyway to be able to continue paying civil servants and teachers.

More autonomous communities will soon follow?

And how did the Spanish Finance Minister Montoro say? "No hay dinero!" – exactly: there is no more money. No wonder that the second region, Murcia, has already announced that it will also want to slip under the national rescue package.

And Murcia and Valencia are not alone: ​​All the Spanish media are speculating these days as to how many of the autonomous communities will file claims in the next few days to allow the central state to rescue themselves. In any case, the prime minister of the extremely poor region of Extremadura, Jose Antonio Monago, only wanted to rule out an immediate claim: "Not in the short term because we have no liquidity problem." That means: maybe in the long term.

The Spanish politicians do not like the fact that the daily newspaper "El Mundo" has calculated that the regions together will need 26 billion euros this year in order not to go bankrupt. Because the national rescue fund comprises only 18 billion euros. And there it is again: the next billion-dollar gap in Spanish public finances.

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