By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]
Financial support from the EU for the planned new Lisbon International Airport at Alcochete is unlikely as almost all European Community funding has already been earmarked for the TGV high-speed rail link from Madrid to Lisbon.
The EU funds allocated to each member state’s National Strategic Reference Framework (QREN) for projects evaluated by Brussels as “strategically vital for the infrastructure and economic development and modernisation” of a particular EU country have, in Portugal’s case, almost all been earmarked for the TGV project.
However, with current budgetary and economic difficulties in Portugal, it looks like plans for the new airport, which was slated to be up and running by 2018, will be severely postponed.
In anticipation of this, a substantial modernisation and expansion plan at Lisbon’s existing Portela Airport was started in 2009 and completed earlier this year, including new boarding gates, shops and restaurant facilities. A second and temporary domestic flights terminal had been opened in August 2008.
In any case, in order for the new Lisbon International Airport to be eligible for EU economic development funding, the project would have to be well under way and completed by December 31, 2015.
Every seven years, Portugal has the right to present the European Commission with detailed reports on infrastructure and development projects within the general European context, in order to benefit from EU grant funding. The projects are examined and granted funding on merit.
But according to the QREN Observatory, the amount of more than one billion Euros made available by the EU for European interlinked infrastructure projects has already been allocated.
The same organisation added that this funding had originally been earmarked for three projects: the TGV, the airport, and the Évora-Badajoz rail link.
But because the EU has not received precise dates and details as to the new airport’s funding and completion, which would have to be by December 31 to qualify, it will be unlikely to get any EU funding to aid its construction.
The amount initially mooted by the EU for the airport project stood at around 170 million Euros, while 955 million Euros has been made available for the TGV.
With delays of two years to the construction of TGV links between Porto and Vigo and Porto and Lisbon, executives at RAVE, the Portuguese public company set up to coordinate and oversee the rail link project, has been trying to change the allocation of funds earmarked for the three lines to just one: the Lisbon-Poceirão (on the Spanish border) branch line (including the new third River Tejo bridge) which is decisive if the European Commission is to give permission for the reallocation of funds.
However, it is unlikely that these funds can be reallocated from the TGV project to other projects such as the new airport states the Observatory.