After years of debate, the Austrian High Administrative Court (VwGH) approved construction of a third runway at the Vienna International Airport (Mar 18). The controversial project has been on hold since 2012 due to its potentially harmful environmental impact.
“The project will create more jobs and allow Austria to compete with airports such as Zurich and Munich,” said Julian Jäger of the airport’s Management Board. Construction dates have yet to be announced, but it is unlikely to be completed before 2030.
The court’s decision was widely welcomed by the business community, with strong statements of support from the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, City Councilor for Finance Peter Hanke (SPÖ) and Federal Transport Minister Norbert Hofer (FPÖ), who described the project as “an opportunity for financial growth.”
But celebrations may be premature, as residents and environmental groups intend on suing the Republic in European Court of Justice. This is the country’s “most climate-damaging project,” said Viennese lawyer Wolfram Proksch, who is representing the plaintiffs. According to WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), the new runway will increase dependency on fossil fuels and worsen Austria’s carbon footprint, contradicting its commitment to the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
Joining the opposition is the WFÖ (Wir Für Österreich), whose “Aircraft Noise Reduction” petition aims to introduce a ban on night flights as well as heavier taxation of the aviation industry. The success of such a referendum would lead to air traffic reduction, they say, making the third runway unnecessary.
The legal representatives of the Vienna International Airport dismiss the opposition’s concerns, saying the third runway will ease the burden on the city of Vienna and other climate related emissions. The Management Board’s decision on a course of action is expected soon.