* Airport seeking to build a third runway
* Supported by economy ministry, but blocked by court
* Airport says ban ignores fundamental rights, EU law
(Adds detail, board member, minister)
By Kirsti Knolle
VIENNA, March 23 Vienna Airport
appealed on Thursday to Austria's highest courts to annul a
ruling that blocked its planned expansion for environmental
reasons, arguing the decision ignored constitutionally
guaranteed rights and EU law.
An Austrian administrative court blocked the construction of
a third runway at Vienna's airport last month, saying it would
run counter to the country's pledge to the Paris climate
The ruling, which law experts see as trend-setting for other
major infrastructure projects in Europe, attracted criticism
from politicians and business people but also praise from
One basis for the appeal was the violation of essential
rights such as freedom of ownership, freedom to carry on a
business and the principle of equality, the airport said.
"The court also fails to understand that obligations arising
from international climate protection agreements relate to
individual countries and the EU Commission and cannot be
directly applied to individual projects," Julian Jaeger, a
member of Vienna Airport's management board, told a news
conference in Vienna.
Climate considerations make up part of the approval process
for many major infrastructure projects, especially since nearly
200 countries agreed to fight global warming in Paris in 2015.
Aviation has been in the spotlight as the sector accounts
for about 3 percent of the EU's total greenhouse gas emissions.
The construction of a third runway at London's Heathrow
airport was only approved after the operator provided an
environmental package, and a German court slapped a night flight
ban on Frankfurt airport after a fourth runway started being
In Austria, the administrative court argued the positive
aspects of the third runway, such as the creation of 30,000 new
jobs, could not justify the extra carbon dioxide pollution.
Vienna Airport, which is currently able to handle up to 35
million passengers per year and served 23 million in 2016, says
the runway is needed to serve an increasing number of passengers
and ensure Austrian businesses' and its own competitiveness.
Austria's Economics Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner supports
the airport and suggested on Wednesday establishing a
constitutional commitment to safeguarding and expanding Austria
as a business location.
(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by David Clarke and Mark