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Polish airport used by CIA obtains millions in EU funds

Published: April 4, 2015
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Source: EU Observer


At the end of a dirt road, a lone security guard keeps out unnanounced visitors (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

 
A small airport in north-eastern Poland used by the CIA to fly in kidnapped detainees for torture at a nearby intelligence training camp has received over €30 million in EU funds.

The EU money is part of a larger €48.5 million sum to turn the former military airstrip into an international commercial airport known as Szymany.

The Brussels-executive has no oversight because the amounts taken from the European regional development fund are too small for it to have a direct stake.

It is instead administered and managed by regional authorities who diverted all the funds into a company they set up after obliging a local Polish-Israeli businessman, who had been instrumental in securing the EU grant, to hand over the airport’s lease.

The site is still part of a going seven-year criminal investigation that may implicate some of Poland’s high-ranking officials and other political figures.

Located in the sparsely populated and economically depressed Warminsko-Mazurskie region, the closest mid-sized city Olsztyn is 60 kilometres away.

The dense forest – the area’s biggest tourist attraction - surrounding the airport is a protected nature reserve under the EU’s Natura 2000 pact.

In addition to its dark history, the airport is set to be one of the those examples of how-not-to and where-not-to build infrastructure projects with EU money.

In 2005 the small airport recorded only one international takeoff and touchdown. Some 151 domestic flights takeoffs and 152 touchdowns were also registered.

The airport is supposed to be finished this year. As of February, the extended runway was nearly complete but only ten percent of the new terminal had so far been built.

But even if the end 2015 deadline is kept to – there is the question of economic feasibility. Developers say at least 100,000 passengers are expected in the first year of the airport’s operation with numbers to “exceed 1 million” after 2035.

In fact, the airport would need one million people a year to travel through it to balance the books.

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