Blessing or Curse? Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport

16 May

“Berlin Can’t Get It Up.” That was the front-page headline on last Wednesday’s edition of the Berlin-based daily “Die Tageszeitung”. And it provides a brief summary of the initial reactions of many people upon learning that the new German capital airport would not open as planned on June 3.

Airport officials and regional politicians announced the delay on last Tuesday (05-08-2012), saying that ongoing tests on the facility’s fire safety equipment would not be finished in time. A new date for the airport’s opening was not immediately set, though Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit suggested a target date sometime in August. “This was more than a nasty surprise,” said Matthias Platzeck, governor of the state of Brandenburg. “I am not concealing that I am livid. Such a surprise is simply unacceptable so close to the opening.”

These are hard words if you consider that not even two month ago Klaus Wowereit said that: “The airport is the most important project for the economic development and growth of the region” when he introduced the one million-euro marketing campaign “Willy Brandt begrüßt die Welt” in march this year.

Both Wowereit and Platzeck hope for an economic boost from the new airport for the region. About two months before the start, the construction had already “triggered investments of around 2.5 billion Euros,” and therefore exceeded the effect of the business activity support program of the federal government. 60 percent of the contracts had gone to Brandenburg. The rise of Brandenburg to the third largest location of Aeronautics and Astronautics is due to the new airport.

Wowereit also pointed out that the airport would create 20 000 new job at and around the airport. Another advantage is that a functioning international airport can be a very important locational factor in the international competition for new settlement.

The construction of the new airport started in September 2006. It was initially intended to handle 27 million passengers per year. The capacity can also be expanded through several stages of expansion to 45 million. The total cost for the 1470-acre airport and the design of the environment amount to four billion Euros.

Today, after 16 years of planning on the airport in the year 2012, it is the third time that the project, known as Berlin-Brandenburg Airport (BER), has been delayed. Initial planning foresaw an opening in 2007, was pushed back to fall 2011 due to protests by local residents and an ensuing legal battle. When a key engineering company involved in project planning went bankrupt in 2010, the date was set for June 3 2012. But the most recent delay, however, is the most surprising, coming as it did just three weeks before the scheduled ribbon-cutting. It’s a catastrophic embarrassment for the city of Berlin, German commentators said last Wednesday.

For example the Conservative daily Die Welt wrote:

“Schadenfreude? More like doubts about Germany, particularly Berlin, as a location for business and industry. Such things cannot happen. When they do, it may be that individuals are responsible, but the embarrassment is collective. What works here anymore? Wowereit’s impertinent description of Berlin as being “poor but sexy” isn’t enough for a European metropolis that is growing into its role as Germany’s capital. A few more Prussian values would be welcome.”

And the Berlin daily Berliner Zeitung wrote:

“Such a major problem doesn’t just fall from the sky. One of the largest, most challenging logistical achievements ever — that of moving two airports in a city — can’t suddenly be handicapped by a routine problem surfacing. Someone must be desperately searching for an excuse, a distraction from his own failures and mistakes. More is being covered up than revealed. What is a better excuse than fire protection?”

“Still, Berlin has always landed on its feet. Berlin has always made something out of catastrophes, both big and small. And let’s be honest. For Berlin residents, a Berlin that is less ambitious, less arrogant and less egomaniacal is more likable.”

Both of the articles agree that this is really just an embarrassment for Berlin and its representatives and that it just can’t be possible that nobody knew of all problems going on until three weeks before the opening.

But, besides the image loss of Berlin, probably the worst thing for the people in Germany is that they as tax payers have to pay not only for the delays of the airport opening but also for the extra costs connected with these delays and the improvements that are necessary to eliminate the security problems. It is estimated that the renewed cancellation of the opening is going to cost the German tax payers about 100 Million Euros. And “the limits of spending on the airport are not even reached yet” said a government member.

Now, it’s on everybody’s own to decide whether the new Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport is rather a blessing or curse for Germany or especially Berlin but the points mentioned above are points that just can’t be ignored.

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6 Responses to “Blessing or Curse? Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport”

  1. rosepanama May 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Hey Julia,
    the heading of your post is very appealing and made me want to read further. I think it is a very interesting topic we’ve chosen since we are all living in Berlin and hear about it almost every day in the radio. You point out different opinions of different politicians which is good to get a clear picture about the conflict. The pictures fit perfectly to the text! However, I wish you would provide some subheadings to get a clearer structure. Sometimes it is hard to read a seemingly never ending text if there are no breaks. Although, you have already improved your blog post a lot by providing a lot of white space. That is great!
    Yet, it would be great to insert some links to the websites where you’ve got the information from. You could also ask us, your team members, what we think about the delay of the opening date and share that information in your post! This is a way to make your posts more personal.
    Finally, it’s seems like you have read a lot about it and you share a lot of information!

  2. HAS May 17, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Hey Julia!

    The delay of the opening of BER had been a potential topic for myself and I am really impressed by how you dealt with it. I consider it well done that you contained opinions of different newspapers and even mayor Wowereit, which you inserted perfectly into the text flow. It is a very hot topic, which is easy to get too subjective, but with letting others speak you avoided this danger. Nevertheless, it would have been nice to hear your personal opinion, too. Maybe, you could do this in one of your next posts. However, great entry!

  3. MonaMondschein May 19, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    Hey Julia!
    SInce I am a real news addict, I heard about the delay pretty much as soon as it was announced. So parts of your article weren’t entirely new to me. Nevertheless, I am very much pleased that you wrote this blog post on the trouble with BER airport, putting all the different statements together that helps one to get a more thorough overview. You even quoted different newspapers! Great! (I’ve often come to the conclusion that only one source of information is apparently not enough because it lacks neutrality and does not only transmit information, but also opinion.) Where did you get the quotes from? Did you translate them on your own or did the sources include the English translations already? I would really like to know that. 😉

    I’ll probably be tuning in more often from now on I guess… 🙂

  4. Mai May 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

    Hi Julia,
    for me your post was very informative. For example, I did not know that the airport initially should be opened in 2007. Wow, that is a delay of more than 5 years soon!
    I liked your introduction using a concise and fitting quotation. Also, you found many interesting opinions on that issue and presented your carefully researched information in a logical and reasonable order.
    One advise I can give you is that you can use comparisons for the numbers you used in order to make it more imaginable for the readers. But other than that, thank you for your informative post 🙂

  5. sabrinacz May 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Hey Julia,
    it´s a very interesting post. I have already heard a lot about the scandalous delay of the airport opening. It causes not only costs for German tax payers, but also for all the airlines and plane companies that planned their whole upcoming business and flights in the new airport. Now there is a legal fight on who has to carry the costs that came up for these airlines due to the delay.
    Well, it´s a very precerious topic that is of great importance for us as we live in Berlin.
    So thanks for your infomative post and keep track of the development concerning the airport 😉 Maybe at the and of the semester, you could write once again, what has happened so far!

  6. angi2012 June 11, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

    Hey Julia;))

    great topic , and since I am personaly affected I’m really upset about the situation. I think it’s very important that we talk about it. And as you see you have touched many people with the issue (see comments). I think it’s really nice that you have used different sources,that provides good overview of the public opinion. But I think in some cases, a link would have been enough already.

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