The Swiss transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, says he rejects criticism of a deal he signed with Germany to resolve a long-standing dispute over noise pollution from Switzerland's main airport at Zurich-Kloten.This content was published on September 9, 2001 - 13:23
In an interview with the Swiss newspaper, "dimanche.ch", Leuenberger said the airport and airlines using Kloten would have suffered in the long run had he failed to reach an agreement with his German counterpart, Kurt Bodewig, when the two ministers met for talks last week.
"If the negotiations had failed," Leuenberger told the paper, "Germany would have taken matters into its own hands and forced Kloten to reduce immediately the number of flights out of Zurich."
"And Switzerland would have been able to do nothing to stop them," he added.
The transport minister was reacting to criticism from the airport authorities as well as from Swissair Group, which had earlier urged him to abandon negotiations with Germany.
Leuenberger also used the interview with the paper to attack "anti-European groups" who he says are "among the loudest protesters against the accord with Germany".
"These groups seem to ignore the fact that a border exists between Switzerland and Germany," he said.
"And these are the very same people who on other occasions are so proud of the fact that Switzerland maintains its international borders," he added.
The agreement with Germany, which is due to be signed in Bern on October 18, came after the two sides agreed in principle last April to reduce the number of flights over Germany.
The deal includes a ban on night flights and a reduction in flights over the weekends.
The proposed new treaty, which would replace an existing agreement signed in 1984, is aimed at a geographically more balanced use of flight lanes to Zurich airport.
Main international gateway
Zurich-Kloten is Switzerland's main international gateway, situated less than 20 kilometres from the border with Germany. Most aircraft landing at the airport currently fly over territory in southern Germany.
Leuenberger also took the opportunity to address the issue of Swissair Group's turbulent financial situation.
Asked whether he was worried Swissair would be forced to file for bankruptcy, Leuenberger said he "hoped" this would not happen. But he rejected the suggestion that the government might offer a cash injection to the troubled airline, saying Swissair was a "private company which limits the possibilities of financial intervention".
"But that does not mean we are doing nothing," he said.
"When I reached agreement with Germany, for example, I was fighting for Swissair, even if Swissair declares it is not satisfied with the result."
swissinfo with agencies
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