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Leros airport threat of closure

- by Archimedes

Leros airport under threat of closure.

Leros islanders are urging the Greek government not to close its single small airport which links Leros to Athens and to other islands. The airport on Leros island is one of a number that Greece plans to sell off to the private sector in a bid to swell the country's depleted national coffers.

Those airports that find buyers will be sold off to the highest bidder while others may simply close to save government cash.

A recent meeting of Leros councillors is calling on the Greek government to think again about selling off the vital island air link.

Leros Airport is located in the north of the island near the village resort of Platanos. The runway is only long enough to accommodate small planes but it has operated flights since 1984.

Olympic Airways has flights to Athens, Kalymnos and Astipalaia and figures show it handles around 10,000 passenger flights a year to and from the island.

The Fund for the Exploitation of State-owned Private Property (TAIPED) is a new Greek public agency created to oversee the Greek government's privatization plans.

It plans to dispose of 29 of the country's airports. Private investors have expressed interest in taking over many of the larger airports such as the one at mainland Thessaloniki and on the major Greek holiday islands of Crete, Corfu, Kos, Rhodes, Zakynthos, Santorini, Lesbos and Chios.

But smaller airports, such as the one on Leros, are unlikely to attract any private capital and look set to be closed with the land sold off to developers.

The privatisation plan, drafted by the Greek government, aims to raise around €50 billion for the state's coffers by 2015. The sell-off also includes stakes in state owned ports, natural gas and oil fields, as well state-owned football and racehorse betting companies, a casino and metal manufacturing business.