Work at Chania airport to restart after minister intervenes

Six months before the completion deadline of the already badly delayed Chania International Airport upgrade and yet another problem was added to the long list of hitches that have plagued plans to give western Crete an up to date airport.

On Wednesday all work at Chania International airport stopped. The contractors AKTOR announced they stopped work because the government is two months behind with €2 million payments for work completed.

Late payment is not an unusual practice in Greece, but the announcement of the contractor came just days after Mr Stathakis minister for development, shipping and tourism assured the airport employees that work at the airport is not going to stop and that there is no problem with payments to the contractor.

However, following further discussions and an intervention from Mr Stathakis, AKTOR has graciously announced that they will resume work at the airport on Monday 8 June.

This is not the first time the contractor stops work because of unpaid bills. In August 2014 work stopped for 10 days until the government arranged to pay money owed to the contractor, after a lot of local protest at the prospect of the project being scrapped.

The 110 million EU funded upgrade contract was originally awarded to NEMESIS Construction in 2012 but AKTOR appealed the decision and after an 18 month battle through the courts, the ‘national contractor’ AKTOR, owned by the influential Bobolas family, won the contract. Work started in late 2013 and under the terms of the funding needs to be completed by the end of 2015, otherwise the 110 million will need to be refunded to the EU.

In 2014 the profitable Chania International was included as a ‘sweetener’ in the bundle of airports to be sold to Fraport.

On 3 June 2015 the Greek defence minister Kammenos visiting Crete on the 74 anniversary of the Kandanos massacre by the Nazis, reiterated that, in his opinion, the privatisation of Chania Airport contravenes EU regulations as the €110 million grant from European development funds constitutes an illegal indirect subsidy to a private company.

The possibility of the case of Chania airport being referred to the EU competition commission was not excluded by Mr Stathakis when he was asked about it during his visit to the airport on 30 May.