A report by the European Court of Auditors has found that approximately €255m of funds granted by the European Union has been used for the unnecessary expansion of airports across Estonia, Greece, Italy, Poland and Spain.
The report also stated that around 20 such airports have misspent large sums of the EU taxpayers’ money over the last decade.
The EU Observer reported that vanity projects in small regional airports, shoddy oversight by the European Commission, no local quality control checks and over-optimistic passenger number forecasts were among the list of problems that helped the overspending.
Out of all the airports that used the funds, only four are in profit while all the other airports ran into losses.
According to the auditors, roughly €129m of the EU money was spent on entirely useless airport projects.
Most of the funds had been used for building terminals and runaways in airports to make them more attractive for new passengers.
Eight airports in Spain, five in Italy, three in Greece and two each in Estonia and Poland were targeted by the auditors.
These airports collectively received close to €666m from the European regional development fund and the cohesion fund between 2000 and 2013.
The lead auditor of the report Luc T’Joen was quoted by the EU Observer as saying: "The Court found that the additional passengers were likely to be, on average, 36% less than had been forecast at the time of deciding on the investments."
The report also stated that very few new passengers have turned up at the airports following the expansion.
Image: An oversized apron at La Palma Airport in the Canary Islands. Photo: courtesy of European Court of Auditors.