#QuieroCorredor - "I want the corridor" - was the Spanish-language hashtag and motto of the event organized by Valencian businessmen in Barcelona to call for the completion of the long-languishing Mediterranean rail corridor, an event which brought together more than 1,500 representatives of the economic sphere and civil society at the Barcelona Forum. The Spanish minister of development, former Socialist mayor of the Catalan town of Gavà, Raquel Sánchez, was the protagonist of the event, in which she was presented with a barrage of critiques and ironies that she took on the chin, while proudly listing off the infrastructure works planned and executed by the Pedro Sánchez government and affirming that by 2026 or, at the very latest, 2030, there will be a connection of the economically-critical corridor from Almeria in the south to the French border.
The business community listened with skepticism. They had reasons to doubt. Some of them, including one of the promoters of the event, the president of the Mercadona supermarket chain, Joan Roig, had chosen to travel to Barcelona by train and had had to put up with a 20-minute delay on the Euromed. It could have been worse, some observers commented, given the current state of the network, but symptomatic of the reason for holding the event, it certainly was. Another of those affected by the delay was the president of the Generalitat of Valencia, Ximo Puig, who also came north on the Euromed.
Following the event from the front row were the presidents of Catalonia, Valencia and Murcia - Pere Aragonès (ERC), Ximo Puig (Socialists), and Fernando López Miras (PP). In 2018, an earlier version of this event was held in Barcelona, but the then-president, Quim Torra, declined to participate because he was not offered the chance to take part, while the Spanish minister, José Luis Ábalos, did so.
Fast forward to 2022, and Aragonès opted for a presence without fanfare. He was the last to arrive, even later than the presidents of Valencia and Murcia, who had already made statements to the press at the doors of the convention centre and were waiting inside the building, but also after the Spanish minister. As the other presidents did - and after getting the camera people to change angles to avoid the omnipresent #QuieroCorredor in the background - he called for the infrastructure works to be accelerated because "it is essential and we are running late". Immediately afterwards, he took his silent spot in the front row of an event that took place entirely in the Spanish language, apart from some very brief greetings. In fact, protocol was not respected with particular enthusiasm - greetings to the authorities were conspicuous by their absence. Not until the end, when the minister took the floor for her turn, did she "take the opportunity" to greet the three presidents and the Catalan leader of the opposition, Salvador Illa, who was also sitting in the audience. She was the only one who had thought of it.
Smell of paella
And it wasn't due to lack of time, given that all up the event lasted an hour and 45 minutes. It was opened by the president of the Valencian employers association, Vicente Boluda, and the minister closed it at the end of speeches and screenings. When it was Sánchez's turn, the smell of the paella that was being prepared for the subsequent reception began to invade the auditorium and make the attendees restless.
The minister, who celebrates her birthday tomorrow, criticized the delays in the infrastructure that were the focus of complaints from the speakers before her, but countered that, according to her data, the Mediterranean corridor project dates back to 2013, and that since 2018, when the PSOE came to power in the Spanish state, the progress has been indisputable. "We have gone from an execution [of planned investment] in 2018 that was 5% to 60%; when we entered the government in 2018 more than half of the corridor was not planned, now we have it all planned and sequenced", she proclaimed.
The delays are piling up
Her participation took the form of an interview, and in the middle, one of the promotional spots for the event, the Col·lecciona Retards ("Delays are piling up") campaign, was shown. "Delays are piling up with the Mediterranean corridor, the railway infrastructure that our country has been awaiting for years but which arrives in small installments. Would you like to know when the next delivery is? Me too. We've had enough of leg-pulling," quips the voice-over, with images of a child playing with a toy train, lacking pieces.
"If we can abandon the rhetoric of victimism, if we can look ahead, we are a country with great potential. We are the country that has the best rail infrastructure system, the best in the world after China", replied the minister, not particularly happy with the humour of the video, to which she responded by calling for the involvement of the private sector and giving the presenter who interviewed her a QR code with information on 300 works in progress and the lists of contracts which have been awarded.