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1ST LEAD Slim but clear majority votes to keep Berlin's Tegel airport open By Andreas Rabenstein, dpa

Europe
25.09.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Berlin (dpa) - A clear majority of Berliners cast their vote in favour of keeping the city‘s Tegel airport open Sunday, in a local referendum that took place parallel to German federal elections.

With about a third of the vote counted late Sunday, 55.4 per cent of voters had backed the airport‘s continued operation.

While the results of the vote seem clear, the referendum is non-binding. Current law holds that Tegel must close once a new airport, Berlin-Brandenburg (BER), opens its doors.

Yet the opening of BER - originally set for 2012 - was delayed by several years after a spectacular array of last-minute and repeated technical setbacks. No specific date for opening has been set, with the most recent speculation suggesting either 2018 or 2019. 

Now it is likely political consultations will begin over whether the law should, or even could, be changed to allow the transport hub to remain in operation.

For years, many living near Tegel had complained about the noise, arguing that its location, almost in the centre of Berlin, was both a major disturbance and a security risk.

In the meantime, Tegel‘s supporters rallied.

They made the case that BER would not be able to accommodate the heavy annual footfall required of a capital city. Supporters said Tegel‘s central location made it quick and easy to reach. In particular, the pro-business Free Democratic Party took up the cause with enthusiasm.

The referendum itself was prompted by a petition from hundreds of thousands of Berliners to "Save Tegel." Recently, polls on the issue were narrow. The Berlin daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel published a poll last month showing the city split on the airport question.

In the last week, the city‘s governing Social Democrat administration distributed literature to every household urging Berliners to vote to close Tegel. Yet it seems the final push was not enough to convince locals.

 

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