Pristina's international airport under new Turkish management

21/04/2011

The first major public-private partnership in Kosovo takes wing, with Turkish investors firmly on board.

By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 21/04/11

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The Turkish-French Consortium Limak and Aeroport de Lyon MAS took over management of the airport on April 4th. [Pristina International Airport]

Just as travellers firm up summer plans, the Turkish-French consortium Limak and Aeroport de Lyon MAS took over management of Pristina International Airport (PIA) earlier this month. The contract, signed last year, gives Limak the right to manage the only commercial airport in Kosovo for the next 20 years.

In exchange, Limak will have to invest around 100m euros to modernise the facility's infrastructure and build a large new terminal. "We will be working as a team," Mertol Genc, CEO of Limak for Kosovo, told SETimes. The company has promised to build the new terminal by the end of next year.

Given the lack of resources to invest in public infrastructure, "public-private partnerships are a key component of our strategy to promote sustainable economic growth," Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci said. Such partnerships are considered a way to promote foreign investment and create jobs.

Pristina's is the third airport in the region to be taken over by a Turkish company, after those in Skopje and Ohrid.

Limak is negotiating with the government of Montenegro to manage the airport of Podgorica and Tivat, a move that would strengthen Turkey's economic presence in the region, making airport management a strategic area for Turkish investors.

The popularity of Kosovo's airport is booming. More than 1.3 million passengers used it last year. Genc suggests those numbers will soar. "Kosovo will be our strategic door to Europe. We expect to increase the number of passengers from 1.3 million to 4 million."

In the last year, the airport attracted more investments to improve passenger comfort and services, along with more scheduled flights to European capitals. Slovenian carrier Adria Airways has made PIA its second hub after the airport in Ljubljana.

All this made Agron Mustafa, PIA's former director, emotional during the recent management transfer.

"I feel especially happy that PIA [has] very good financial prospects and [is] secure at the time of transfer," he told SETimes.

The biggest Turkish investment to date in Kosovo is by the Bechtel-Enka consortium, which won a 700m-euro contract last year to build a highway connecting Pristina and Durres, Albania.

The Pristina airport deal is the second largest Turkish investment in the country, with more expected in the future, mainly through the privatisation of the Post-Telecommunication Company of Kosovo and other public enterprises in strategic sectors.

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Thaci calls the Kosovo airport deal a "major step" towards implementing public-private partnerships, and is confident in developing similar arrangements in other sectors of the economy in the future.

Ankara's Ambassador to Kosovo Songül Ozan says "Turkey is deeply interested [in supporting] economic development through investment and political support for Kosovo."

Travellers look forward to the new terminal, as the current arrivals building was damaged during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war.

Passenger Sebahate Menxhiqi, who was arriving from Munich aboard an Adria flight, told SETimes, "I see changes but the service needs to be improved."

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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