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Zurich airport row continues in German court

Parts of southern Germany had complained of too much noise from aircraft Keystone

The national carrier, Swiss, and Unique, which runs Zurich airport, have returned to a German court to fight German-imposed flight restrictions into the hub.

This content was published on May 6, 2005 - 08:58

But the Leipzig court announced on Wednesday that it would not make a decision until the European Court of Justice, also considering the Swiss case, had made a ruling.

The row centres on flight restrictions imposed by Germany over a key route into Zurich airport. This northern approach into the hub is mainly over parts of southern Germany.

After the Swiss parliament turned down an accord to limit the number of flights over this route in March 2003, Berlin responded a month later by effectively banning these flights during the night.

This has forced the airport - which is about 20 kilometres from the German border - to implement a controversial southern approach over some of the city’s most affluent areas. Complaints about noise and plunging house prices have ensued.

Infringement

Swiss - now a part of German carrier Lufthansa - and Unique argued at the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig in eastern Germany that these restrictions infringed German, European and international law.

The limits discriminated against both Swiss, which has its hub at Zurich, and the airport, and violated an aviation accord between the European Union and Switzerland, they said.

For their part, lawyers for the German authorities said the decision to impose the restrictions was legal according to German law.

This is the second time that the two companies have been to court over the restrictions. The Administrative Court in Baden-Württemberg, southern Germany, rejected their arguments in 2003, saying that Berlin had acted legally.

Second time lucky?

But the higher Leipzig court decided to re-examine the judgement in January this year.

After considering the case on Wednesday, the court’s judges said that they supported the Baden-Württemberg court’s ruling that the restrictions were legal under German law.

They said, however, that they could not pronounce on whether the move was compatible with European law or the EU-Swiss agreement until the European Court of Justice had ruled on the matter.

The EU has already rejected Switzerland’s stance on the flight restrictions and the country has now taken its case to the European Court of Justice, the EU’s judicial power.

Mixed feelings

Unique said on Wednesday it had taken note of the court’s statement, whereas Swiss said it had mixed feelings.

"Negative for us is that, in the end, not all of our arguments were accepted," Swiss spokeswoman Priska Spoerri told Swiss radio.

"But it was positive that the federal administrative court recognized the European dimension of the case and wants therefore to wait for the verdict of the European Court of Justice," she added.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Swiss and Unique say that the flight restrictions imposed by Germany in April 2003 are illegal and violate a Swiss-EU aviation accord.

The Administrative Court in Baden-Württemberg already rejected their arguments in 2003. Swiss and Unique then appealed.

The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig then said it would not rule on the matter until it had heard the verdict of the European Court of Justice.

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