Amsterdam is calling on the Schiphol airport authority to cut flights by 12% to reduce pollution and noise problems for locals. And to make sure this happens, the city will become more of an activist shareholder in the airport, city finance chief Hester van Buren told the Parool.
Amsterdam owns 20.3% of Schiphol’s shares and the city’s executive has now decided to stop voting in line with the state – the majority shareholder in the airport group. And that means campaigning for a further cut in take-offs and landings to 440,000 per year.
The state, which owns a 70% stake in the airport, has ordered a reduction to 452,500. But if the new government thinks differently, Van Buren told the paper she will vote against the new line at shareholders’ meetings.
“I will no longer say ‘it is not up to us’,” she told the paper. “We may only have 20% but we back a cut in numbers, no night flights and no private jets,” she said. “And if they won’t listen to us, then as a city council and a shareholder, we will let them know what we think.”
The city has also taken a more critical approach to the airports investment plans, which must be aimed at solving problems and making improvements, not growth. “And we have been listened to,” she said.
The impact of cutting the number of international connections on the Amsterdam economy “will not lead to its economic collapse” and a wholesale departure of companies, she said. “But are all those flights to London, Paris and New York really necessary?” she said. “And we should not be flying to Brussels at all anymore.”
Last month, caretaker infrastructure minister Mark Harbers told MPs the plan to reduce take-off and landings at Schiphol airport to 460,000 next year has been abandoned, following criticism from the EU, Canada and the US.
A number of airlines have already gone to court in protest at the cuts, which the government won on appeal. The case is now with the Supreme Court.
Harbers told MPs that several countries had expressed their concerns about the cuts and that the cabinet has now decided to leave things as they are, at least until the Supreme Court has had its say.
It is a “bitter pill” for locals, but the cabinet is “determined to restore the balance between Schiphol and its surroundings,” he said. In the meantime, the government has begun a European procedure to press ahead with the change, based on the “balanced approach” principle.
European rules require governments to consider both environmental protection and the interests of maintaining a well-run transport network. All parties, including airlines, environmental groups and local residents, are entitled to have their say. Brussels also has to approve the plan.
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