The Vienna airport mediation: point of view of the Vienna Ombuds-Office for Environmental Protection
A history of increasing citizen opposition to the continuous increase in aircraft traffic and associated noise around Vienna airport came to a head because neither the airport authority nor the local authority consulted local interest groups about plans for a third runway. Eventually, the airport operating company decided to address public concerns and set up an environment mediation process. The process was initiated and co-founded by a Vienna-based lawyer, a citizen initiative and the Viennese Environmental Ombuds-Office. The co-founder of the process was the airport operating company (Flughafen Wien AG), and 55 parties took part in the mediation process. This process constituted the largest environmental mediation process in Europe. It was structured so that it could accommodate new emerging issues and new participants. It imparted knowledge transparently and citizen groups had a role in the engagement of experts. It benefited from being an institutionalised process and involved an international (Austrian and Swiss) mediation team. The mediation process, including the extensive preparation phase, started in 2000 and came to a conclusion in June 2005 with legally binding contracts that were signed by nearly all parties.
Keywords: risk governance, environmental mediation, public participation, trust, confidence, Vienna airport, Austria, aircraft traffic, aircraft noise, third runway, local opposition, citizen groups, international mediation, risk assessment