ECONOMY

Court of auditors finds EU funds wasted on three Greek regional airports

The European Court of Auditors concluded on Tuesday that millions of euros in European funding has been wasted on 20 regional airports in the bloc, three of which are located in Greece.

In a special report titled “EU-funded airport infrastructure: Poor value for money,” the Luxembourg-based body found that “some airports were not profitable in the long term, some were underused and some were not used at all,” citing in particular the example of Kastoria airport in northern Greece.

“Kastoria’s revenue of 176,000 euros for 2005-2012 was dwarfed by the 7.7 million euros it cost to keep the airport open over the same period,” the auditors said. “A further 16.5 million euros invested in an extension to Kastoria’s runway (which has never been used for the type of aircraft for which it was built) cannot be considered an effective use of public funds.”

The other 17 airports that received a negative report are located in Spain, Italy, Poland and Estonia. Together with the three Greek airports, they received a total of more than 600 million euros in EU funds from 2000 to 2013.

For Thessaloniki airport (photo) in northern Greece, the auditors found that while a runway extension was deemed necessary the project was delayed by over 12 months from agreed delivery and had a cost overrun of 21.7 million euros at the time of the audit. Its impact on the local economy was also deemed unsatisfactory.

The airport in Iraklio, Crete, fared better as the court found that it has managed to increase passenger traffic and made use of investments for its improvement. However, the auditors could not find any evidence that the airport has an impact on the local economy and further questioned its sustainability, in light of the competition from another two airports on the southern Aegean island.

Kastoria is the laggard, scoring the lowest satisfaction rating in six of the nine categories under examination, including whether the investment was needed, whether all outputs are being used and whether any qualitative benefits were achieved from the investment.