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Mediator to tackle airport noise row

Leuenberger says a new approach is needed Keystone Archive

The Swiss government is to appoint an independent mediator to tackle the ongoing row with Germany over noise pollution at Zurich airport.

This content was published on September 25, 2003 - 10:34

Transport Minister Moritz Leuenberger announced the decision after meeting representatives of the airport, the affected cantons and the national airline, Swiss.

Leuenberger insisted that a new approach was necessary to end the current stand-off and to improve an atmosphere that the minister described as “spiteful”.

“At the moment all parties are feeling aggrieved and ignored,” added Leuenberger. “A mediation process should help restore their faith and bring us closer to a fair solution.”

In October 2001 Leuenberger negotiated an aviation accord with his then German counterpart, Kurt Bodewig, aimed at restricting the number of flights entering and departing Zurich via German airspace.

However the deal, which would have cut the number of flights from the north by a third, was heavily criticised in Switzerland where parliament refusing to ratify the deal.

Flight restrictions

Germany has subsequently threatened to impose even tougher restrictions, which are set to come into force at the end of October.

Whatever benefits mediation may bring, it certainly won’t achieve a solution by then.

Under the timetable laid out by Leuenberger on Wednesday, the government will name a “process provider” or initial mediator, whose first task will be to form an assembly of affected parties.

In spring 2004, this assembly would then appoint a mediator whose final report would be due by the end of the same year.

Anticipating scepticism from residents in southern Germany, Leuenberger insisted that the proposed mediation was not a delaying tactic. He said a speedy agreement was highly unlikely given the “current state of conflict”.

Aviation alliance

Tuesday’s decision by Swiss to enter into an alliance with British Airways rather than link up with German carrier Lufthansa is unlikely to help ease that conflict.

Although warmly welcoming the entry of Swiss into the Oneworld alliance, Leuenberger conceded that the move could further increase the tension regarding noise pollution.

“The Oneworld alliance should help maintain Zurich’s role as a hub airport,” Leuenberger told swissinfo, “and of course that could mean more planes flying into Zurich.

“Yes, a tie-up with Lufthansa might have improved relations over the noise row, but Swiss is in Oneworld, so that’s hypothetical now.”

Leuenberger said that the mediation proposal had been unanimously welcomed on Wednesday by all the Swiss parties involved.

The minister will not have to wait long for an official German response. Leuenberger is expected to hold further talks with his German counterpart, Manfred Stolpe, on October 2.

swissinfo, Mark Ledsom

Leuenberger

In October 2001 Leuenberger negotiated an aviation accord with his then German counterpart, Kurt Bodewig.

The two sides agreed to cut by a third the number of flights permitted to fly over Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany before landing in Zurich, less than 20 kilometres from the German border.

Leunberger was criticised in Switzerland for giving too much away and parliament refused to ratify the deal.

The German government then retaliated by imposing tougher restrictions.

Further restrictions are planned for the end of October.

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