Notre-Dame-des-Landes Airport: “Contentious Collaboration” In the Government

Construction of Notre Dame Des Landes airport is paused due to controversy. Photo: Public Domain

Construction of Notre Dame Des Landes airport is paused due to controversy. Photo: Public Domain

January 2013 was meant to mark the beginning of the construction of the new airport Notre-Dame-des-Landes, scheduled to open in 2017. Yet, after the violent confrontations on the site between protesters opposing the project and the police, the project has been postponed until June.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault reopens discussions on the issue November 30th. Beyond the civil disobedience, the real challenge for the prime minister, who had promoted the project even back in his days as the mayor of Nantes, will be the divisions within the government, as the Green party, Europe Écologie Les Verts, is fiercely opposing the construction.

The idea of an airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes (Loire-Atlantique) was first introduced in the early 1960s, to offer an alternative to Parisian airports. After having been abandoned and re-launched, the project was officially adopted in 2008.  The construction company, Vinci, is the main investor. The price of the project has been estimated at €556 million, divided between Vinci (€310 million) and the state (€246 million), however critics of the project have pointed out that including road construction needed to access the airport, the project will eventually be significantly more expensive.

Given this time of financial crisis, the potential of deficits to cover if the project is not successful, has rallied many against the project. The financial aspect is however not the only criticism. Some question if there is a practical reason for building the airport. The main argument given by Jean-Marc Ayrault was that the near-by Nantes airport was already working at full capacity and could not be enlarged.

However opponents have been attempting to demonstrate the opposite. Among those convinced that the solution lies in the improvement of Nantes airport is Jean-Philippe Magnen, member of the Green party and vice-president of the regional council of Pays de la Loire.

“We expect from this discussion with Jean-Marc Ayrault the creation of a commission, with three neutral representatives, experts on the topic, who could reconsider the question. They would meet with the actors involved and maybe conclude that all the possibilities have not been explored. I am thinking more specifically about the optimization of the current Nantes international airport, which according to us can definitely be optimized. But what we are asking for is an independent study on the potentiality for optimisation of this existing airport,” said Magnen.

Two of the ministers within the government belong to the Green party – the charismatic Cecile Duflot, minister of territorial equality and housing and Pascal Canfin, delegate minister of development – and the conflict between their position as members of the Green Party and obligations as member of the government raises the question of their legitimacy. In an interview with La Jeune Politique, Jean-Philippe Magnen, remains serene, concerning what appears to him as no more than a foreseeable and manageable disagreement.

“I think it’s great that they are part of the government to guarantee that environmental policies are part of the project for France. We have quite strong divergences with the Socialists on a number of topics and Notre-Dame-des-Landes is one of them. I tend to call that the ‘contentious cooperation,’ it is a Brazilian expression; we adopt cooperation and ministers do their job within the government, but at the same time they are not biting their tongues. It is not only Notre-Dame-des-Landes: we are also very critical on the question of competitiveness, energy, and nuclear industry.”

The conflict between protesters and the police has also undoubtedly increased the emphasis on the Notre-Dame-des-Landes controversy. Hundred of protesters are currently occupying the site: some have been there for years but most joined in the past weeks. Multiple arrests and violence against protesters have increased support for the opponents inhabiting the area and the sentiment that the project has been imposed without consultation.

By Staff Writer Eva Blum Dumontet


  1. traduction svp

    • Marc Goetzmann says:

      Bonjour, le site est écrit uniquement en anglais. Sur certains navigateurs, la traduction en français (par bing souvent) doit être disponible.


  1. […] government have been attacked on several issues, the Florange case and the controversy around Notre-Dame-des-Landes and its airport among the most […]

  2. […] if the opposition manages to gather the support of those who are opposed to Ayrault’s airport project in Notre-Dame-des Landes, which Roland […]

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