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Government wants policy control over airports

Swiss thinks Zurich airport is still at the heart of Europe Keystone

The federal government has published a major report on national civil aviation policy – the first document of its kind for more than 50 years.

This content was published on December 15, 2003 - 12:42

Publication comes a day after transport minister Moritz Leuenberger confirmed that fresh talks are being held with Germany to ease flight restrictions affecting Zurich airport.

Presenting the report on Monday, Leuenberger stressed the “extraordinary economic importance” of civil aviation for Switzerland and the need for “good framework conditions” for international competition.

The report, which is to be submitted to parliament, reaffirms the government’s conviction that the current international “hub” strategy based on Zurich airport is “a good way of optimising air links to and from Switzerland”.

It also states its commitment to Geneva airport as the “key to an international Geneva”.

However, it says the “concrete aviation offer” should be determined by market forces, not government, and states clearly that the government’s current financial stake in national airline Swiss is “limited in time”.

Competitive pressures

The report, drafted following a public consultation procedure launched last year, proposes increasing direct government influence in two key areas: national airports and safety.

As a first step, the government proposes “using to the maximum” its existing prerogatives in the area of national planning, as well as acting to prevent extreme cases of “noise pollution”.

However, it rules out the idea of public authorities taking direct operational responsibility for the running of airports.

Other specific proposals include a review of the extent to which current taxes on aviation fuel for domestic services could be used to support environmental protection measures and to improve air transport safety and security.

Regarding safety, the authors comment that the civil aviation industry today faces fierce competitive pressures, and cannot be relied on to ensure sufficiently high safety standards through self-regulation alone.

They add: “The state must therefore ensure that safety levels are maintained by intensified monitoring.”

Way forward

National airline Swiss has welcomed publication of the report, saying it “largely supports” the government’s objectives.

Swiss president and CEO Christoph Franz said: “Moritz Leuenberger deserves recognition for producing this report, which points the way forward… It is now of great importance to implement concrete measures as quickly as possible.”

Franz specifically welcomed a number of points, including government “commitment to Swiss as an important factor in air transport policy” and “willingness to absorb, if necessary, certain costs relating to security and air traffic control”.

However, he expressed disappointment that the government did not support a proposal to transform the existing airport noise concentration fund into an independent legal entity – and sponsor it to cover any short-term financial deficits.

swissinfo

In brief

The report is the first comprehensive overview of Swiss civil aviation policy since 1953.

It follows a major national debate in the wake of the Swissair debacle and the ongoing problems of successor Swiss.

The proposals on security coincide with calls by international airlines for more government financial support for new anti-terrorist measures.

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