Bulgaria's state authorities are seeking bidders for the concession of the inactive airport in the northwestern city of Vidin, Plamen Stefanov, Vidin District Governor, told Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency).
In an interview for Novinite.com dedicated to the situation of Bulgaria's Northwestern (Severozapaden) Region, which is the EU's poorest region in terms of per capita GDP, Stefanov announced that his administration and the central government are now prepared to grant the Vidin Airport on concession.
"This is the former civilian airport of the city of Vidin which was served by small airplanes in the 1980s. Back then, the flights from Vidin to Sofia lasted about 40 minutes, and were rather popular," Stefanov said.
He explained that the Vidin Airport was shut down without much thought in 1998-1999 because of a dispute between the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Agriculture about which one of them is supposed to pay compensations to the former owners of the land where the Vidin Airport is located. (The land was nationalized during Bulgaria's communist period when almost all agricultural land was state-owned; it was restituted to owners after 1989 either in full or through compensations – editor's note).
"Because of this dispute, the Vidin Airport has simply been abandoned, and has been left to the mercy of Mother Nature. We have a wonderful runway there, and all experts say it can be used. The airport also has all the respective infrastructure even though its buildings are now defunct. But it can very well be served by small planes. I am not talking about some grand airport project," believes the Vidin District Governor.
He stressed that the Vidin Airport could in fact turn out to be very attractive as a transport hub because of the city of Vidin's Danube ports and railway connections as well as its proximity to Serbia and Romania.
"I think that the potential combination of the Vidin Airport with Vidin's Danube ports – which are very good – and the railway transport – by 2020 the high-speed railway line from Vidin to Sofia should be ready – would be a very interesting spot for the development of inter-modal transport – with Central Europe and the former Yugoslavia states which are now seeking to join the EU," Stefanov said.
He also noted the example of a former NATO military airport in Germany's Baden-Wuerttemberg province now used for civilian purposes that the Vidin District administration got acquainted with through its cooperation with the authorities of Germany's Ortenau district (Ortenaukreis), saying that his administration wants to grant the Vidin Airport to a concessionaire in a similar fashion.
"We would be happy if Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) can help us spread this information that we are looking for a concessionaire for the Vidin Airport; this would really help our region... More detailed information is available on the website of the Vidin District Administration. The Vidin Mayor and I as well as the other mayors are ready to provide any cooperation needed to a potential investor that is interested in the concession of the Vidin Airport," Stefanov said.
With his announcement, the Vidin Airport has become the latest among several currently inactive airports in Bulgaria's provinces – such as the Gorna Oryahovitsa Airport, the Ruse Airport (Shtraklevo), and the Balchik Airport – that only in the recent months the Bulgarian government has set out to revive by starting procedures to grant them on concessions to interested bidders as a way to utilize the potential of Bulgaria's provinces.