The project comprises the construction of a new passenger terminal, a new runway and associated facilities (such as access roads, parking lots and taxiways) at Sofia Airport. The investments contribute to the modernisation and upgrading of the airport, which is Bulgaria's main airport, situated near the capital city Sofia. The new terminal is to replace the present obsolete structure and provide adequate services to passengers. The new runway will be constructed a few hundred meters further away from residential areas and thus reduce noise nuisance to residents. Its construction will improve the operational flexibility of the airport. For instance, the runway will facilitate operations under a wide range of meteorological conditions and enable departing aircraft to avoid passing over Sofia under certain weather conditions. It will also allow the use of larger aircraft. The existing runway will serve in the future as a taxiway. The planning phase has been completed and construction will commence soon. The new facilities are expected to be fully operational by early 2005.
EIB decision to finance
On 9 September 1997, the EIB and the Republic of Bulgaria signed an EUR 60 million loan contract (with a 20 years term). The ultimate beneficiary of the loan is Sofia Airport EAD, a state-owned company operating the airport. The Bank is co-financing the project with the European Union's pre-accession ISPA and Phare funds, providing EUR 50 million and EUR 7.6 million in grant aid respectively, and the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development. The project will improve the airport's capacity to provide passengers with a quality of service consistent with international standards. The airport will be able to handle increased air traffic and improve the operational efficiency of airline operations, enhancing trade and tourism links between Bulgaria and the European Union. The Bank is closely monitoring the project to make sure that the works meet relevant European Union legislation and international standards, in particular those of ICAO. Loan disbursements are subject to the project promoter's compliance with EIB loan conditions.
The new passenger terminal, runway, and related facilities have been subject to a full environmental impact assessment (EIA) in accordance with the Bulgarian law, similar to the European Union's EIA Directive 85/337/EEC, as amended by 97/11/EC. The impacts assessed included noise, atmosphere, surface and underground water, soil, flora and fauna, landscape, waste, urban environment and cultural heritage. Public consultation was part of the EIA process. The EIAs were completed in 2001. EIA recommendations and conditions of the Ministry of Environment and Waters are public and are implemented in parallel to the construction works. The Ministry concluded a written agreement with the Initiative Committee for the Protection of the Citizens from the Sofia Airport Activities on environmental mitigating measures and on public access to information during project implementation. EIB carefully reviewed the EIA processes undertaken for the project. The required EIA documentation was submitted to the Bank by the Bulgarian Authorities, including the non-technical summary, the above mentioned agreement on environmental protection measures between the Ministry of Environment and Waters and the Initiative Committee for the Protection of the Citizens from the Sofia Airport Activities, as well as the official relevant decisions.