Berlin referendum to be held on future of Tempelhof airport

1st February 2008, Comments 0 comments

But 25 percent of the city's residents will have to support the initiative to win.

Berlin -- A referendum is to be held on the future of Berlin's historic Tempelhof airport, after 175,000 people signed a petition protesting plans to close it this year.

The referendum - the first of its kind in the German capital - is being viewed as a victory by campaigners battling to keep the airport open.

But for it to have any political clout, the referendum will require the backing of more than 25 per cent of Berlin's 2.4 million eligible voters when it is held in the spring.

Friedbert Pflueger, the city's opposition Christian Democratic Union party leader, claims that by securing the necessary 170,000 votes needed for the referendum Berliners had "shown their great determination to keep Tempelhof open.

"I call on the Berlin Senate, to accept the will of the people, and revise plans to close it down," said Pflueger, who has argued the merits of Tempelhof being maintained as a "city airport, with short, direct routes to the heart of the city."

He claims that well-known investors are interested in the airport being transformed into an international health centre, with affiliated airport landing facilities.

Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit, on the other hand, said the result of the petition would not affect his government's plans to close down the airport.

The decision to shut Tempelhof on Oct. 31 is legally binding after being given approval by the city's coalition of Social Democrats and The Left party, he said.

Berlin plans to build a huge new Berlin-Brandenburg International (BBI) airport within five years. But before such plans are realised government officials say both Tempelhof and, at a later date, Tegel airport in the north-west of the city, should close.

Tempelhof was where allied planes landed during the Berlin airlift nearly 60 years ago when the communists sealed West Berlin's land and rail routes.

The airlift, which began in June 1948, and lasted until September 1949, saw British and American planes landing at Tempelhof at the rate of one every three minutes, bringing in a total of 12,490 tons of vital supplies in 1,398 flights.

DPA with Expatica

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