Berlin mayor steps down from role in airport project now years overdue

Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit has stepped down as head of a board overseeing the building of the city’s new international airport after a fresh delay in the project dealt a blow to Germany’s reputation for efficiency.

Mr Wowereit, a focal point for criticism of delays in the €4.3 billion scheme, yesterday bowed to the pressure and gave up the supervisory board chair to Brandenburg state premier Matthias Platzeck. The airport is jointly owned by Berlin, Brandenburg and the federal government.

But Mr Wowereit said he would not resign as city mayor.

Already 20 years in the planning when construction began in 2006, Willy Brandt International Airport was set to open in 2008. This was pushed back to 2011, then June 2012, then March 2013, then October 2013 and now to some point after 2014.

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The delays, caused mainly by problems with the fire safety system, have turned the airport and its city into a nationwide butt of jokes. Authorities fear it could also harm the global reputation of German engineering.

Tegel airport – one of three in the German capital that Willy Brandt International is meant to replace – was built in just 90 days during the Cold War. Sixty years on, the protracted struggle to open the new airport has exposed the inefficiencies of a country weighed down by regulations and bureaucracy.