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Basel's EuroAirport marks 60th anniversary

Basel's EuroAirport is going from strength to strength (Keystone/EuroAirport)

The Basel-Mulhouse airport - which was set up in the shadow of the Second World War - has been celebrating its 60th anniversary.

The only binational airport in the world threw open its doors to thousands of visitors on Saturday and announced it was set for a record number of passengers this year.

Situated entirely on French territory, the airport has a Swiss customs sector connected to Basel via a customs road.

However, its position close to the Baden-Württemberg region means that it also serves Germany. France and Switzerland each account for 38 per cent of local passengers with 24 per cent coming from Germany.

"The Basel-Mulhouse airport, known under its trademark EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg, has a trinational vocation," the airport said on its anniversary website.

"And as such is a symbol for the international cooperation which became absolutely vital after the Second World War."

The idea for the airport was mooted in the 1930s by the Basel authorities after Basel's airfield became too busy.

The French government approved the idea of an airport situated on the countries' borders. But negotiations were suspended after the outbreak of the Second World War.

These were resumed in May 1945, leading to an agreement whereby France would provide the land and Switzerland would build the runways and airport buildings.

In the following years the airport was expanded and in 1970 the "finished" airport was inaugurated. More buildings have since been added.

Open doors

The airport held an open day on Saturday to mark its anniversary and celebrate its success. In all, around 12,000 visitors attended, said EuroAirport. Air displays were also on show.

EuroAirport's authorities also used the occasion to reveal the nine-month passenger figures for 2006. These had risen by 24 per cent on last year to just over three million, with the number of people expected to go through Basel-Mulhouse predicted at four million by the end of the year.

This would beat the airport's previous record of 3.78 million in 2000, officials said.

The news will come as a relief for the airport, which looked like it was facing major problems three years ago after national airline Swiss scaled back its flights.

"We have managed to get through our crisis well and are in the process of taking off even further," Jürg Rämi, EuroAirport's director, told Swiss television.

"EasyJet has helped us and now even Swiss is coming back and sees that there is market potential here in northwestern Switzerland and in this trinational region."

Swiss announced on Friday that it is to increase the number of its flights from Basel. But EasyJet, which has been strengthening its presence there after pulling out of Zurich airport, remains the largest airline.

Looking to the future, EuroAirport said on its website it planned to develop its flight offer, particularly to eastern Europe and well as consolidate its regional services.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The EuroAirport is situated at the crossroads of Alsace in France, northwest Switzerland, and Baden-Württemberg in Germany.
More than 6,000 people work in the approximately 150 companies associated with the airport.
Total passengers for the first 9 months of 2006: 3.04 million.
Expected total for 2006: 4 million.
From Sunday EuroAirport will be serving 43 destinations under its winter schedule – including charter flights this rises to 90 places.

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