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Switzerland and Germany end aviation row

Moritz Leuenberger (right) with his German counterpart, Kurt Bodewig Keystone

The transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, and his German counterpart, Kurt Bodewig, have reached an agreement in the long-running dispute over flights and noise pollution out of Zurich airport, with the Swiss making major concessions.

This content was published on April 23, 2001 - 22:23

Under the terms of the agreement, flights over southern Germany will be reduced by 35 per cent, from the current figure of 150,000 down to 100,000.

Night flights over German territory between 2200 and 0600 will also be banned from September 1, and a reduction in flights on weekends and bank holidays is to be phased in by autumn 2002.

Despite the concessions, there was one small ray of sunshine for critics of the deal to cling to: the new limits on flight numbers will not be brought in for 41 months - something for which the airport authorities in Zurich had been lobbying strongly.

Announcing the end of the deadlock between the two countries, Leuenberger, who headed the Swiss delegation in Berlin, said he was "very happy" to have reached an agreement after five hours of what he described as "tough negotiations".

He admitted that the Swiss had been forced to give ground, but said that without a compromise the situation could have been a lot worse.

He said Germany could have single-handedly imposed restrictions on its airspace, forcing Switzerland to take the matter before the German courts, which would have resulted in "considerable uncertainty".

But the transport minister's comments failed to cut any ice with the authorities at Zurich's Kloten airport. Its spokesman, Lukas Hässig, expressed disappointment that so much had been conceded by the government.

He said the agreement on the reduction of night flights was "unacceptable" and "discriminatory", adding that the 100,000 limit on flights over southern Germany was too low.

However, Hans-Ulrich Aebersold, of the Swiss Federal Aviation Authority, insisted the deal was far from a disastrous one for Bern.

He said the Swiss had won important concessions themselves, such as fighting off a total ban on weekend flights. Plus they had won "a significantly higher number of 100,000 over-flights" against the 80,000 which Germany had initially demanded.

"We have two winners and two losers, if you want to say it that way, because both parties had to move," he told swissinfo.

Monday's agreement ends months of failed negotiations between Bern and Berlin following the announcement a year ago that Germany was tearing up a long-standing transport agreement between the two countries at the end of May.

The aviation row escalated to such an extent that at one point officials in Berlin threatened to fine pilots flying through airspace over southern Germany.

swissinfo with agencies

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