The deadline for bids in the tender for the 35-year concession on Sofia Airport has been postponed again, to February 5, according to a notice posted on the concession website, maintained by Bulgaria’s Transport Ministry.
According to the notice, the deadline extension was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on December 26 2018. The delay affects all the deadlines for the next stages of the process, but no other changes to the tender documentation has been made, the notice said.
This is the third time that the deadline for bids has been postponed, with the Transport Ministry saying in October it was pushing the deadline back by one month to November 22 2018.
A week before that deadline, the ministry once again pushed it back, this time to January 29. On both occasions, it did not give a reason for the delay.
Called in July 2018, this is Bulgaria’s second attempt to pick a concessionaire for the country’s largest air hub. The first process, launched in 2016 by the previous government of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, also saw several delays before it was scrapped by a caretaker government in March 2017.
The arguments for calling the tender off closely mirrored those put forward by the opposition socialists, who claimed that it was against the state’s interests to offer the airport on concession.
The socialists have made several calls in parliament for the Cabinet to cancel the tender and, last month, took the case to the prosecutor’s office, asking it to intervene on the grounds that the airport was of key importance to national security and a concession would undermine that status. The prosecutor’s office declined to become involved, saying that it had no legal ground to appeal the tender.
The Cabinet wants to use the large up-front concession fee on the country’s ailing state railway BDZ, settling its outstanding debts and to purchase new rolling stock. It also set an ambitious investment programme for the future concession holder, requiring it to build a third terminal at the airport and to undertake a study on possibly building a second runway.