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18.03.2013

Treaty with Germany

On 7 March 2013 the first chamber of the Swiss Parliament.-.the Council of States.-.approved the treaty with Germany which regulates approach routes at Zurich Airport. Flughafen Zürich AG welcomed this far-sighted decision.

In July 2012, Federal Councillor Doris Leuthard and her German colleague Peter Ramsauer agreed on a treaty that provides a long-term solution to the problem of aircraft noise in southern Germany. However, the treaty is a compromise which, by its very nature, means that neither side has achieved all its targets. Switzerland had to make concessions and is now faced with a treaty which will impose much stricter requirements with respect to approach routes in the medium term compared with the status quo. The population in southern Germany will benefit from an additional 16.5 quiet hours each week. However, no fixed limit on the number of flight movements was stipulated. This will at least allow some moderate growth to meet the steadily growing demand.

If Switzerland were to reject the treaty, South Baden would seek to push through a unilateral tightening of the existing German implementing regulation under the Stuttgart Declaration. This demands limiting the number of flight approaches from the north to a maximum of 80′000 and also expanding the curfew periods. To meet these more stringent demands, Switzerland would have to transfer even more flights to other runways and consequently also into Swiss airspace, which would lead to a loss of capacity.

Runway extension and segmented (curved) northern approach

To implement the treaty, from an operational point of view two key prerequisites must be met. Firstly the East Concept must be strengthened. This mainly involves extending runway 10/28 towards the west, fast taxiways and a cleaner separation of take-off and approach routes in the air. This will make it possible to transfer the flights arriving in the additional curfew periods without any significant loss of capacity or greater complexity. Secondly, the treaty permits a segmented (“curved”) northern approach route. This allows early morning flights to approach from the north to land between 06:00 and 06:30.

Long-term solution provides security

As the treaty cannot be terminated until 2030 at the earliest, it creates legal certainty and investment security for all parties. The Confederation can finally issue the plan for Zurich Airport in the Sectoral Aviation Infrastructure Plan. The airport will then file its definitive operating regulations and will have the long-term security to invest in the necessary alterations and expansion. This will also provide legal and planning certainty for the communities affected so they will be able to drive forward their future development plans within a stable framework. In consideration of all these pros and cons, Flughafen Zürich AG sees no alternative to ratification of the current treaty and is actively supporting ratification since its signing.

The Council of States has also accepted that the current treaty constitutes an acceptable compromise. In the consultations held on 7 March 2013 it approved the treaty by a clear majority and gave the green light for swift ratification. If the National Council also approves it in the summer session, Switzerland will have fulfilled its part of the agreement. Germany will then have to decide whether also to ratify the treaty which has now been initialled after tough, lengthy negotiations and signed by both ministers.

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