Czech prime minister postpones meeting with Austrian chancellor

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On Wednesday, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman announced that he had postponed an upcoming meeting with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel. This came in reaction to blockades of Czech-Austrian border crossings by environmentalists who are protesting against the Temelin nuclear power plant. Dita Asiedu has this report:

The meeting, which was due to take place at the end of November, was to follow the first, held on October 31st, at which neither Mr. Zeman nor Mr. Schuessel agreed to back down over Temelin. Chancellor Schuessel called for the plant to be shut down for six months in order for extensive safety checks to be carried out, and for an environmental impact study to be compiled. Prime Minister Zeman declined his Austrian counterpart's proposal, but instead offered to continue dialogue with Mr. Schuessel, and to set up a special hotline to allow Czech and Austrian authorities to communicate freely on the issue at any time. At a press conference after the meeting, Mr. Zeman reiterated his dissatisfaction with previous border blockades: Unhappy with the meeting's results, in which both parties basically agreed to disagree, Austrian anti-nuclear activists and environmentalists recommenced a blockade of all 15 Czech-Austrian border crossings. This, however, seems to have backfired, as Czech Prime Minister Zeman refused to cooperate with the Austrian government unless free traffic was allowed to resume on all border crossings by Monday. The activists unblocked only 12 of the border crossings, and as a result Mr. Zeman announced on Wednesday that he was canceling his next meeting with the Austrian chancellor.

Czech-Austrian relations have worsened over the course of this year due to fears on the side of the Austrians that the nuclear power plant, which was activated in the Czech village of Temelin last month, did not meet sufficient safety standards and that as it is about 50 km from the Austrian border, could be extremely dangerous for the Austrian people. The strain on Czech-Austrian relations has reached such an extent that Austria has now threatened several times to prevent the closure of the energy chapter of legislation necessary for the Czechs to attain EU membership.

Austria has also called for help from the EU in resolving the issue of Temelin. Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel has invited the European Union's commissioner for enlargement, Mr. Guenter Verheugen, to take part in the next meeting with the Czech prime minister to help mediate. As Mr. Zeman has now cancelled the meeting, it's unlikely that any solution will be found in the near future.