A new chapter in the story of Berlin's airports has begun. A non-binding referendum initiated by the Liberal Party asked Berlin citizens whether they should "demand that the Berlin Senate give up its closure intentions and take all measures necessary to ensure the indefinite operation of [Berlin Tegel Airport]".
The referendum has no legal or legislative consequences, since it did not task Berliners with voting on a specific law.
The operating licence for the new and as yet unfinished Berlin Brandenburg Airport has been issued under the condition that Berlin Tegel Airport's operating licence will expire within six months of the new airport opening. During this time Tegel is intended to serve as a back-up for Brandenburg during its start-up period.
According to referendum opponents, the legal hurdles to keep Tegel open are too high and would further delay the opening of the new airport with long lawsuits, as well as the fact that renovation of Tegel is urgently required and the operation of two airports would be too expensive.
Referendum supporters argue that the original planning of the new airport more than 20 years ago underestimated passenger growth, meaning that it will already be too small on opening. Subsequently, the basis for closing Tegel has dramatically changed and requires new assessment.
The vote indicates that approximately 56% of Berliners voted 'yes' and support keeping Tegel open. Local politics must now find a way to deal with Berlin's wish to maintain two airports.
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