'Brandt Would Turn in His Grave': Berlin's Blighted Airport May Need a New Name

At present, the terminal bears the name of the Nobel Peace Prize winner. But there's a lot of rebuilding going on. Zoom
DPA

At present, the terminal bears the name of the Nobel Peace Prize winner. But there's a lot of rebuilding going on.

Berlin's new airport is named after former Chancellor Willy Brandt, but its construction faults have brought it such infamy that the foundation managing Brandt's political legacy is worried about having the Nobel laureate associated with the project.

For now, Berlin's new airport is officially called Willy Brandt Airport after the former German chancellor and Nobel Peace Prize winner widely acknowledged to have been one of post-war Germany's greatest leaders.

But the image of the airport has been tarnished so heavily by the construction fiasco surrounding it that the Willy Brandt Foundation appears to regret the choice of name.

Wolfram Hoppenstedt, the director of the foundation set up after Brandt's death to preserve the memory of his political accomplishments, said on Tuesday that the airport shouldn't be dedicated to the feted Social Democrat and former mayor of West Berlin until it has finally been completed.

"The name of the former chancellor shouldn't be associated with the planning errors," Hoppenstedt told Bild newspaper. The report added that some members of the foundation said the name of the airport may even be changed.

It also quoted Sahra Wagenknecht, deputy leader of the Left Party, as saying: "Willy Brandt would probably turn in his grave if he knew that he's supposed to give his name to this catastrophic airport."

'A Negative Symbol'

At the moment, though Brandt's name adorns the entry to the building, it is mainly referred to as BER or Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Manifold construction problems have caused its opening to be delayed four times and have sparked concern among politicians and business leaders that Germany's reputation for reliability and quality engineering could suffer.

The most recent scheduled opening date, of Oct. 27, 2013, was abandoned last week due to the airport's persistent failure to meet fire safety requirements and a host of other construction faults. No new date has been set yet. It could be 2014 or even later. Building started in 2006.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit has resigned as chairman of the project's supervisory board and been replaced by the governor of the state of Brandenburg, Matthias Platzeck, who admitted on Monday: "Our airport project has become a negative symbol."

The debacle has led to political mud-slinging ahead of a regional election in the state of Lower Saxony on January 20 and the general election in September. On Tuesday, the head of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Sigmar Gabriel, accused Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer of having known about the latest delay three weeks ago but having said nothing.

"It appears that Ramsauer misled the public," Gabriel told center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. "If this is proved to be true, the role of Herr Ramsauer will appear in a whole different light."

A spokesman for Ramsauer denied the accusation.

The center-right government of Chancellor Angela Merkel has a stake in the airport company alongside the states of Berlin and Brandenburg, but has so far managed to avoid public criticism. SPD politician Wowereit, by contrast, has come under a lot of fire and faced calls to resign as mayor.

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