Infrastructure minister continues in the government

The minister Pedro Nuno Santos spoke to journalists this Thursday afternoon about the recent controversy surrounding the new Lisbon airport.

The Minister of Infrastructure and Housing, Pedro Nuno Santos, announced this afternoon that he will remain in the government after meeting with prime minister, António Costa, due to the recent controversy surrounding the new Lisbon airport.

In a press conference, Pedro Nuno Santos regretted “the whole situation surrounding the order” published this Wednesday on the location of the new Lisbon airports, which he said was “the result of errors of communication and articulation within the government, which are [his] entire responsibility.”

The minister of infrastructure acknowledges that “these [communication] failures had consequences” but “obviously” he will remain in office. Pedro Nuno Santos goes on to say it was “the desire to achieve and accomplish” that hindered the “search for consensus” favoured by the prime minister.

At the end of his speech, the minister insisted that the “friendship [with António Costa] is not disturbed by this unfortunate moment” and said he wanted to “overcome this moment [and] rebuild the working relationship” with the prime minister.

This situation surges after António Costa has instructed the minister of infrastructure and housing to revoke the order published yesterday on the Lisbon region airport capacity expansion plan.

“The prime minister reaffirms that the solution has to be negotiated and consensualised with the opposition, in particular with the main opposition party and, under no circumstances, without prior information to the president of the Republic,” António Costa’s office announced in a statement sent to news outlets.

The Ministry of infrastructure on Wednesday announced a new solution to boost airport capacity in the Lisbon region that envisages the construction of an airport at the current Air Base No. 6 in Montijo by 2026, and another at Alcochete Shooting Range to start operating in 2035, which would replace the Humberto Delgado airport.

The new plan was outlined by an order from the secretary of state for infrastructure, Hugo Santos Mendes, which was published in the country’s official gazette.

PM says “the government’s orientation has been re-established”

Following the minister of infrastructure’s press conference, the Portuguese prime minister also addressed today’s controversial topic. According to him, a “serious mistake” was made, which was “promptly” assumed by Pedro Nuno Santos, considering that “the government’s orientation has been re-established” with regard to the new Lisbon airport.

“The government’s orientation is, first of all, that the country urgently needs to increase airport capacity in the Lisbon region, that this is a decision that has been dragging on for decades and that requires a broad national consensus and requires dialogue and agreement, at least with the PSD,” he explained before visiting an exhibition in Lisbon, accompanied by the French President, Emmanuel Macron.

When questioned about the justifications for this mistake, António Costa ironically said that “even politicians are human and, like all human beings, make mistakes”. “The most important thing is that they are aware of them, that they correct them. The minister [Pedro Nuno Santos] has already revoked the order and is totally in agreement with the orientation defined by me for the government, which is to work on a national consensus in order to have a decision that is solid from the political, technical, environmental and economic point of view to increase airport capacity in the Lisbon region,” added the prime minister.

(article last updated at 6h15 pm)