The EP approves a new regulation which would grant Barcelona Port newfound autonomy


Source: Vilaweb in English


The European Parliament has approved a new Port Services Regulation (PRS) which guarantees  EU ports more autonomy, allowing each managing body of the port to set its own structure and rates. This will cause some changes in Spain as the ports are regulated primarily by the ´Puertos del Estado´, a public sector body of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport. Ramon Tremosa, MEP of pro-independence liberal party CDC, noted that this is a “historic” victory for Catalonia, and condemned the government-run port system that had been implemented. However, MEP for governing conservative People´s Party (PP) suggests that European Parliament is “encouraging competition” and that the new regulation would call for a change in Spain´s Constitution. Parties PP, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), and Unionist Ciutadans all voted against the legislation. However, as the Port of Barcelona has seen an increase in traffic in the last few years, Tremosa countered that the regulation could allow for it to truly ¨thrive”. The CDC MEP argues that the Port of Barcelona could do this by allowing it to lower its rates to more competitive prices, and open it to becoming a European port for international commerce.

This Tuesday, the European Parliament approved the new PSR which would grant EU ports more autonomy. “The structure and the port tariff rate will be set autonomously by the managing body of the port, in accordance with its own commercial strategy and investment plan”, outlines the text. Said document, drawn up by Hamburg MEP Knut Fleckenstein, was approved by 451 MEP votes to 243, with 18 abstentions. MEP Ramon Tremosa of the pro-independence liberal party CDC stated that “the approved regulation stipulates that each port has the autonomy to set its own rates and aims to reduce the subsidies between ports of the same country, thereby ending the secular hyper-centralism of the Puertos del Estado”. The ´Puertos del Estado´ are a public sector body of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, comprised of 28 Port Authorities with jurisdiction over 46 public interest ports. More than 47 million tons of goods passed through the Port of Barcelona in 2015, a number which marked a steady increase from the previous year. This also means a 52% rise above numbers achieved even before the economic crisis. This regulation allots new autonomy to the increasingly utilised and successful Port of Barcelona, along with those in all of Catalonia.

The governing PP), PSOE, and Spanish unionist party ´Ciutadans´ all voted against the regulation. PP MEP Luis de Grandes argued that “in Spain, the reform would be detrimental, because the ports are public domain and the taxes to be paid for their use is set through negotiations between private operators”. “Spain would be forced to change its Constitution and how the Spanish port system is organised, i.e. privatising the ports” contended de Grandes. The MEP additionally asserted that Eurochambres was “encouraging competition among the Member States that constitute an essential part of its organisation and economic system”.

Tremosa noted that this is a “historical reclamation” by the Port of Barcelona and for the Parliament of Catalonia, as well as a “basic condition for the growth potential of the Mediterranean corridor to be able to thrive”.

MEPs of the political parties ERC, CDC, ´Podemos´ and Basque Nationalist Party (PNB) all voted in favour of the regulation, while Catalan Green-Socialist party (ICV) abstained.

A “historic” victory
Tremosa explained to CNA that this voting was a “great victory for a historic Catalan majority decision”, one which has left “Spain alone” to “defend” an “unsuccessful, disastrous, soviet model from the nineteenth century that has no future in modern Europe”.

The CDC MEP added that this regulation will allow Mediterranean ports to enter “into the twenty-first century”, that “Genoa, Marseille, Barcelona and Valencia can become Hamburg, Bremen, Rotterdam or Antwerp”. Tremosa also disclosed that, with individualised management, the Port of Barcelona “can compete by setting lower rates to intercept new traffic, new investments, and new transportation of goods”. For Tremosa, it´s about Mediterranean ports “no longer being local ports, in order to become European ports for international commerce”.

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