Together with his team, Schoenherr partner Christian Schmelz led the airport to success.
The permit to build the third runway at VIE was confirmed by the Austrian High Administrative Court ("AHAC") on 18 March. All appeals by the opponents of the project were rejected, meaning that there are no legal objections to the implementation of the project.
Christian Schmelz, partner at Schoenherr, commented on the successful conclusion: "It was an incredibly complex and exciting lawsuit. We are proud that we were able to lead the Vienna International Airport and the province of Lower Austria to success."
The road to success was long and winding: in February 2017, the Austrian Federal Administrative Court ("AFAC") prohibited the construction of the third runway at Vienna International Airport due to climate protection. This decision attracted worldwide attention. Schoenherr then filed a complaint with the Austrian Constitutional Court which led to the fact that the AFACs decision was revoked.
Since then, Schoenherr has gradually led VIE to success. After the decision of the AFAC on 23 March 2018 confirming the environmental impact assessment ("EIA") decision – and the permit – of the local authority, an interim step was taken by the Austrian Constitutional Court, which confirmed the constitutionality of the "Air Traffic Noise Immission Control Ordinance".
Ultimately, Schoenherr succeeded before the AHAC in the now completed appeal: On 18 March, the AHAC confirmed the approval for the construction of the third runway. All grounds of appeal of the project opponents were rejected.
Christian Schmelz is particularly pleased with the Austrian High Administrative Court's clarification on the subject of climate protection: "According to EU law, a distinction must be made between the aviation industry and the airport. The aviation industry is subject to the emissions trading system; worldwide aircraft operators are obliged to keep emissions low, as they can influence aircraft emissions. An EU-wide emissions trading system already exists, and a worldwide emissions trading system is planned. The airport, on the other hand, is only responsible for the airport's emissions. "The third runway will not increase but rather reduce climate-relevant emissions at the airport; Vienna International Airport will achieve CO2 neutrality as early as five years after implementation."
Christian Schmelz said about the Viennese citizens' initiatives arguments at court: "A straight approach flying over Vienna to the third runway was never on the cards. The approved curved approach to the third runway will reduce the number of flights over the city area, so that – which was also pointed out be the Austrian High Administrative Court - the third runway will actually ease the burden for the City of Vienna.
About two million people (legal parties) and numerous communities, NGOs, etc., had the right to participate in the approval proceedings. This helped to make it one of the largest mediation proceedings ever conducted in Europe preceding the approval proceeding, as well as the biggest EIA proceeding ever in Austria. Schoenherr provided full legal advice to VIE in relation to the EIA proceeding and the regulatory framework, including adaptation of the law (EIA Act, Aviation Act, Aircraft Noise Regulation etc.).
The Schoenherr advisory team was led by Christian Schmelz (partner, Vienna, regulatory), who was supported by Benjamin Schlatter (attorney at law, Vienna, regulatory), Christian Holzer and Christoph Jirak (both associates, regulatory).
Previous press releases:
4 July 2017: Schoenherr leads Vienna Airport to victory in hearing about third runway: Constitutional Court repeals Federal Administrative Court decision
30 March 2018: Schoenherr leads Vienna Airport to success in third runway proceedings: Federal Administrative Court gives green light