Voters To Decide Fate Of Historic Berlin Airport
The fate of historic Tempelhof Airport will be decided Sunday,
April 27 as citizens of Berlin take part in a public referendum
focusing on the closure of the airport well known for its role
during the Berlin Airlift.
BBC News reported the referendum vote as the last hope for
supporters to keep Germany's oldest airport in operation despite
mounting political pressure and dissenters including environmental
activists and local residents.
ANN reported in December the
Federal Administrative Court ruled Tempelhof to be closed as of
October 31, 2008 despite complaints by airlines serving the airport
and local residents. Officials claimed that the airport had been
losing money for years due to its lack of airline traffic.
The "Save Tempelhof Airport Association" unsuccessfully fought the
closure decision in the courts, and decided on a referendum option
to appeal to local residents. AOPA Germany also mobilized their
membership to keep the airport open. Many see the
airport as a symbol of Berlin's history and strength, as well as a
viable and convenient airport for travel with its location -- only
20 minutes away from the center of Berlin.
City authorities counter Tempelhof needs to close in order to
make way for the new international airport, Berlin Brandenburg
International (BBI), due to open in 2011 on the outskirts of the
city. Authorities believe keeping Tempelhof open and adding the new
airport will put strain on the environment, and negatively impact
economic development in the region.
Critics to that way of thinking point out construction of BBI is
behind schedule, and Tempelhof needs to remain open to accommodate
rising passenger numbers. Though only a small number of commercial
airlines and private jets use the airport currently, airport
supporters believe this is due to years of residents and
politicians ignoring the airport.
If the referendum favors Tempelhof remaining open, there is a
risk city politicians will ignore it. Klaus Wowereit, Mayor of
Berlin, has stated repeatedly that it is a non-binding referendum
and the government is not bound by the result.
Such a move by the government may prove to be unpopular as other
politicians have urged the government to respect the result of the
referendum. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also publicly
stated that she prefers the airport to remain open.
"For many people, and for me personally, this airport, with the
airlift, is a symbol of the city's history," Merkel told the
newspaper BZ, as reported by the BBC.
Built in 1923, Tempelhof made history during the Berlin Airlift
of 1948, when thousands of tons of food and supplies were flown in
to West Berlin by allied nations against the Soviet Union