Green light for ‘democratic piloting’ of Geneva Airport


Voters in Geneva have backed a local initiative calling for controlled development of the airport. According to initial results, 55.81% of voters said “yes” on Sunday to the constitutional initiative calling for the “democratic piloting of Geneva Airport”. 

This content was published on November 24, 2019

Specifically, the initiativeExternal link is for tighter controls on the expansion of Geneva Airport, with noise and air pollution becoming a higher priority. 

Supporters of the “democratic piloting” proposal, a mix of leftwing parties, local associations and environmental groups, are concerned by the continued growth of Switzerland’s second busiest airport and air and noise pollution, especially between 10pm and midnight. 

Over the past ten years air traffic in Geneva has doubled and is set to continue to rise. Geneva predicts traffic to increase from 191,000 aircraft movements and 17.3 million passengers in 2018 to 236,000 movements and 25 million passengers by 2030. 

Campaigners say they recognize that the airport is a major source of employment, business activity and crucial for so-called International Geneva. But they say its future development should be better balanced and properly discussed and managed, in a way that better takes into account the needs of the local population and economy, health concerns and the environment. 

They want the airport to be inscribed in the local constitution as a fully state-controlled public asset, like the Geneva public transport system (TPG) or local power company, Services industriels de Genève. 

They also propose that environmental issues become a higher priority and the authorities take suitable measures to limit noise and air pollution and CO2 emissions linked to the airport. 

A 2018 report by the Swiss environment ministry revealed that excessive aircraft noise pollution affects 24,000 people during the day and 75,000 people at night. The figures cover the whole of Switzerland and relates not just to Geneva airport. 

The campaigners want airport officials to regularly submit reports and medium and long-term objectives to the Geneva cantonal parliament for approval. 


A counter-proposal to the initiative, backed by centre-right parties in Geneva and business, had presented a less-restrictive plan, which would have inscribed the airport in the constitution but maintained its autonomous status. 

The Geneva government and parliament had rejected the “democratic piloting” initiative, saying its implementation would damage the economy and be a heavy burden for the running of the airport. They backed the more “pragmatic” counter-proposal. 

The supporters of the “democratic piloting” proposal described the counter-proposal as “ineffective”. 

“While the airport's development plan is primarily aimed at a linear increase in passengers to 25 million in 2030, the counter-project does not allow the limitation of nuisances via relevant measures,” it said. 

A recent report by the Le TempsExternal link newspaper suggested that, contrary to campaigners’ wishes, the future development of the airport may be out of their hands. 

It said the airport, founded in 1919, may belong to the canton, but it said civil aviation in Switzerland is fragmented, with the aviation authorities in Bern, the state-owned traffic navigation service Skyguide, private air carriers and International Civil Aviation Organization each having an influence.

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