Last week I offered space to those concerned to reply to certain questions related to alleged irregularities in the financing and implementation of the Spata Airport project at Athens. Despite the fact that the Commission always responds when it thinks an article does not reflect the truth (readers of this column are familiar with such practices) there was no reply this time. Therefore, I presume that the various DGs involved in the matter (i.e. Office of the President, Legal Service, Regional Policy, Internal Market, Transport and Competition) are confident that everything was legitimate in the Spata affair.

Thus, since everything was legitimate in the Spata project, I will advise you of a legitimate way to make some good pocket money.

The formula may not work in equatorial Africa or in any of the bananya republics of Latin America, but it will certainly work in Brussels.

Step One: You apply to the European Commission for assistance. Make sure that in the first part of your application you use as a currency not Euro (or ECU) but Deutsche Marks. You present an itemised analysis of the construction cost of the project, let’s say DEM 1,756,966,748. On top of that you add DEM 663,569,890 as interests and pre-operating expenses (during the construction period) plus an (arbitrary) escalation of, let’s say, DEM 763,453,362 which brings us to an overall cost of DEM 3,204,000,000. End of step one.

Step Two: You continue now with your application by presenting the project financing requirements. This time you do not refer to your outlays in Deutsche marks but in ECU (or Euro). So you start by converting your overall cost of DEM 3,204,000,000 into ECU 1,772,759,000 and you name this item “construction cost.” To that you add ECU 415,848,000 for interests and pre-operating expenses (during the construction period) and you come up with a total requiring financing of ECU

2,188,607,000. End of step two.

Ceteris paribus, which means leaving aside what you have been able to put in your hands with overpricing and unjustified escalations, you just got another 415,848,000 Euro deep into your pocket with the blessings of the Santer and the Prodi Commissions. We shall soon see whether the new Commission under Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso will continue the blessings.

I understand that this genial perception to make money, which is not described in any textbooks, is very useful, especially for newcomers to the Union that are looking for Community funds with great expectations.

To make it easier to understand, for those interested in successfully making some easy pocket money, we will reproduce all related documents of this otherwise shameful story, next week.

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