A 70-page report of the European Court of Auditors, published on 16th December, points an accusing finger at deserted airport halls, unused runways, and half empty car parks.
It took a year for independent experts to audit twenty European airports in five countries: Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland and Estonia. Their findings are that the EU funded investments in these airports have not generated the expected results, and are in fact unprofitable. Between 2000 and 2013, of the 666 million euros spent in enlarging terminals or building new runways, 38 million euros were done so unnecessarily.
George Pufan, Member of the European Court of Auditors:
" We found out that some airports were not financially viable in the long term, some were under-used and some were not used at all. "
Seven of the twenty subsidised airports, such as Crotone in Italy, Kastoria in Greece, or Cordoba in Spain, are simply not profitable. The latter, for example, was supposed to have welcomed 179,000 passengers in 2013, but in fact the figure was less than 7,000. An overestimation of growth in air traffic, and proximity to other major airports, are the two main reasons for this financial mess. But the report also underlines the malfunction of the Commission itself, stating :-
" Funding was not well coordinated by the Member States (…) the funding was insufficiently supervised by the Commission, which generally does not know which airports are receiving funding or what sums are involved. ’’
Which now leaves it up to the European Commission to draw the necessary conclusions.