Aviation and politics: the close links

Like many other influential industries, the aviation lobby likes to keep well connected with politicians, with Moritz Leuenberger being the latest example. Perhaps he will now prefer air travel to train travel.

When the president of the Swiss Aviation Foundation, Bruno Gehrig, was named as the new president of the Board of Directors of the airline Swiss (now a subsidiary of Lufthansa), he was quickly replaced by Moritz Leuenberger. Until recently, Moritz Leuenberger was a federal councillor in charge of the department of the environment, transport, energy and communications (DETEC).

This Swiss Aviation Foundation was created back in 2005 at the time when Swiss was integrated into Lufthansa. Its stated objective is to promote the development of air transport and the accompanying infrastructure in Switzerland. It is clearly quite business-savvy, since its headquarters is situated in the canton of Zug, one of three cantons which, according to a survey by KPMG, offer particularly low tax rates. The Swiss will be voting this weekend on whether to limit how low some cantonal tax rates can be set.

Geneva airport, even more than Zurich airport, is particularly keen to involve the world of politics in its administration, with several centre-right politicians forming part of its Board of Directors. These include two Geneva politicians, from Meyrin and Grand Saconnex, which makes it hardly surprising that these communes are among very few Swiss and French communes which have chosen not to belong to the cross-border  association of communes adjacent to the airport (ATCR_AIG). How well these politicians represent us is difficult to assess, since there appear to be no published minutes of meetings of this Board, nor even any list of how often they have attended meetings

It is also interesting to note that the reverse process happened a few years ago, when Jean-Pierre Jobin, afler ceasing to be the director of the airport, immediately stood as a candidate of the Christian Democrat party for the Geneva council. Regrettably for him, the voters decided t that he should be on that council.

In this new case, of Moritz lLeunberger leaving politics to go to the aviation lobby, one can wonder why he chose to accept this position and what he might wish to do. Perhaps, if (as was suggested to me) ex-federal councillors retain their rights to travel free on Swiss airlines, he might feel a moral obligation to do something to earn this privilege.

It is, however, rather curious that someone who always portrayed himself as "green" should now become an advocate of an industry which is widely regarded as the fastest-growing threat to the environment of which he used to be in charge. He was particularly noted as having travelled by train to the UN meeting on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December of 2009.

If he goes there again, we can probably expect him to fly!

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