Czech foreign minister warns: patience with border blockades running thin
At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg took time off from the official talks to try and resolve a drawn-out bilateral problem with neighboring Austria. In a private meeting with his Austrian counterpart, Ursula Plassnik, Mr. Schwarzenberg said that Czech patience with continuing Austrian border blockades by anti-nuclear activists was running thin. He warned that if Austrian opponents of the Temelin nuclear power plant continued to restrict free movement at the Czech -Austrian border he would have no choice but to put the matter on the agenda of the next EU foreign ministers meeting.
"I warned my Austrian counterpart that our patience is running thin. It would be a different matter if the protesters demonstrated in Vienna. By all means let them do that. But blocking the border and restricting freedom of movement is another thing. Such steps harm good relations and neighborly cooperation."
Vienna is now in a difficult position. Anti-nuclear protesters are determined to keep up the pressure and want their government to sue the Czech Republic over Temelin at a European court. The Austrian government recently commissioned a study to assess Vienna's chances in a legal battle with its neighbor. The conclusions of this study were leaked to the press on Monday and splashed across the front pages of the Austrian dailies Die Presse and Osterreich. "Austria doesn't stand a chance," the headlines said. According to some commentators, the Austrian government is now looking for a way to beat a retreat without losing face.