OVERTRUMPING FOR SEASIDE AIRPORTS STARTS AGAIN
The only certain thing for now about the concessioning of the airports in Bourgas and Varna is that it won't be completed prior the start of the summer holiday season. This means that the promises of preferred and brushed off candidates for big investments before the inflow of vacationers to the Bulgarian Black Sea resorts will be left for the summer of 2007.
A ruling of a five-member team of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) as of the end of last week practically sent back the procedure to the starting point. The magistrates confirmed the ruling of SAC's three-member panel, revoking the Cabinet's decision of April 7, 2005 by which the Danish Coppenhagen Airports was nominated winner in the tender for a concessionaire. SAC's five-member team confirmed that the term within which the Danish had to eliminate the irregularities in their documentation was not observed and they had to leave the competition. According to highest magistrates, Coppenhagen does not meet the contest criteria, i.e. minimum two years of experience in management and exploitation of at least two airports with more than 2 million passengers a year over the last five years, and successful implementation of investment projects exceeding EUR100MN in the last five years.
The small but quite essential difference between the decisions of the two instances is that SAC's five-member panel allows the Council of Ministers to appraise (taking into consideration the submitted evidence) if all candidates' participation is admissible. In other words, the Cabinet is to decide if the Danish company would be allowed to take part in the concessioning procedure again. And SAC's three-member team was giving the Government instructions to continue the procedure with the other candidates.
The court's ruling of January 27, 2006 leaves open the question about the concessioning of the Bulgarian seaside airports and will lead to a considerable delay in their exigent expansion and modernisation. We express our firm readiness to use all legal measures in the continuing procedures for the airports' concessioning, a stance of Coppenhagen Airports addressed to mass media reads. At the same time, the consortia which have litigated the decision - the German-French Fraport - BM Star and the French Venci Concession - Venci Airports - keep all chances.
The Cabinet will have to decide now if a new procedure should be invited or continue with the present one. If the first option is chosen, it would take additional money and time. The second possibility has two options -with or without the participation of the Danish company. Their elimination will certainly lead to litigation on their part. Therefore, the more probable decision is to repeat the procedure with the present participants. But a new wave of lawsuits could be expected no matter who is nominated winner.
In any case, the Cabinet should undertake urgent measures for saving the summer holiday season. The Transport Ministry has already announced that in case of a negative answer on the part of court they were ready to invest BGN500,000 in the construction of temporary utilities for improving the state of the two airports.