The Swiss parliament has rejected a controversial air transport accord with Germany, aimed at ending a long-running dispute over noise pollution.This content was published on June 20, 2002 - 07:39
As expected, the House of Representatives on Wednesday voted against the agreement, saying it discriminated against Switzerland. The Senate is expected to follow suit later this year.
During the debate in the House, politicians from centre-right and right wing parties accused the transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, of selling out Switzerland to neighbouring Germany.
They said the agreement, struck with the German transport minister, Kurt Bodewig, jeopardised the future of Switzerland's main airport in Zurich, which lies less than 20 kilometres from the German border.
Under last October's accord, both sides agreed to cut by a third the number of flights permitted to use airspace over southern Germany before landing at Zurich airport. This would mean a reduction from 150,000 to 100,000 a year.
The deal also includes a ban on night flights and a reduction in weekend aircraft movements.
However, an alliance of centre-left parties, including the Social Democrats, said the accord was a fair compromise.
They said rejection of the agreement would result in disaster for the national airline, "swiss", for the operators of Zurich airport and for people living in the region.
During the debate, Transport Minister Leuenberger in vain defended the accord. He warned that Switzerland had no legal means to prevent Germany from taking over air traffic control for the northern access route to Zurich.
Germany has threatened to suspend a treaty with the Swiss air traffic control authority, Skyguide, and to immediately limit the number of flights allowed to use airspace over southern Germany to 80,000 a year.
The Swiss Business Federation, the national carrier, swiss, the cantonal government of Zurich, as well as the operators of Zurich airport all welcomed the decision by parliament.
They said the agreement was one-sided and called for new talks with Germany.
Leuenberger said he was not surprised by the vote. But he warned that there were no signs that Germany would withdraw its threat and be willing to negotiate a new accord with Switzerland.
Skyguide expressed concern that operations would get more complicated for Zurich airport, if Germany carried out its threat to take over air traffic control over southern Germany.
Several towns in southern Germany have complained for years about noise pollution and have called for the use of alternative flight paths into Zurich.
Environmental groups and local authorities from within Switzerland have also voiced concerns about the planned increase in flights over Swiss soil under the deal with Germany.
Germany's parliament is expected to approve ratification of the air transport deal with Switzerland in the coming weeks. Political analysts say the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Greens will defeat efforts by the opposition to block the deal in the Upper of House of Parliament.
swissinfo with agencies
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