Photo: Foto Barlavento

South of Portugal and Spain to become “European economic benchmark”

The president of the regional government of Andalusia (Spain) believes that the Algarve, Alentejo and Andalusia regions can become the next economic hotspot of Europe in less than three decades.

“The south of Portugal and Spain will be called upon to be the economic benchmark of Europe in the next 30 years due to their climate and geostrategic positions, and we want to value every positive aspect we have,” Juan Manuel Moreno told Lusa news agency after a visit to the expansion works at the Alentejo Science and Technology Park (PACT click here) in Évora.

The expansion project focuses on the construction of the Infante D. Henrique Centre and are taking place as part of a cross-border cooperation project bringing together the universities of Évora, Algarve and Seville (Spain), as well as PACT and Martrain (Faro).

Over €21 million are being invested in the project, which is being developed by the Alentejo-Algarve-Andalusia Euroregion (EuroAAA), with community funding covering 75% of the cost via Programa Interreg V-A Espanha-Portugal (POCTEP).

The goal of the initiative is to “stimulate research and development in the Logistics, Industry 4.0 and Sustainable Materials” sectors amongst the participating universities and entities.

Moreno described the project as “pioneering” and said the goal is to “combine technology and innovation” with cutting-edge resources and put it at the disposal of the “natural talent that exists in the Algarve, Alentejo and Andalusia”.

Hopes are that the cross-border project will stimulate the local economy whilst also attracting investors to the southern regions of Portugal and Spain, the regional president of Andalusia said.

Rail link not forgotten
Another issue that the president of Andalusia’s regional government touched upon was the long-discussed rail link to the Algarve.

Juan Manuel Moreno vowed that Andalusia would keep “pressuring” the central Spanish government to finally see the project come to life.

“With European funding, (the project) can come to life. We consider it necessary and timely,” Moreno told reporters after the signing of a protocol of Cross-border Cooperation of the Working Community of the Alentejo-Algarve-Andalusia Euroregion (EuroAAA).

He added that the issue has been highlighted as a priority in the regional and central governments’ strategic plans for transportation and communication.

The rail link would help “generate synergies” to establish the Euroregion as “one of the great tourist destinations in the world, especially in southern Europe,” Moreno said.

While he revealed that there is a “very positive attitude” towards the project in Madrid, Moreno called, however, for concrete plans, with deadlines and investment commitments, in order to make the project official.

This comes as a positive update to what Portuguese government officials said about the project last year.

In March 2021, Portugal’s Minister for Infrastructure said in Parliament that Spain was “not interested” in building the proposed high-speed rail link and added that Portugal was completely in favour of the project.

“The problem is that Spain has shown no interest, which makes our job very difficult. We can’t build a link to Huelva if the Spanish don’t want it,” he admitted.

In October, Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa also described the idea of building a rail link between Faro in the Algarve and Seville in Andalusia (Spain) as a “dream that will one day come true”, though he did not expand upon his remarks.

michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com