Germany ready to oppose Temelin, says Austrian MP


Three months after it was shut down for vital maintenance work, reactor 1 at the Temelin nuclear power station finally came back on-line at 7:50 on Sunday morning. The decision to resume testing at the plant has once more enraged anti-Temelin activists and certain politicians in neigbouring Austria.

Austria has always been the country at the heart of the opposition to Temelin, although until now, the government in Vienna has steered clear from attaching it to the closure of Energy chapter in the Czech Republic's negotiations to join the European Union. In a new twist, however, Otto Gumpinger, a Austrian Freedom Party politician, claims that a letter he received from the German Environment Minister, hints at possible Berlin support for linking Temelin to Czech EU accession.

Radio Prague's Peter Smith spoke to Kerry Skyringer of Radio Austria International, and asked him first what kind of coverage the Temelin switch-on was receiving in the media.

"Quite a bit of publicity and as you can assume, most of it is negative. It's been described particularly by politicians in Upper Austria - where most of the protest against Temelin is concentrated as a provocation. There's been little reaction from the national government."

Why do you think the Austrian Freedom Party is the party opposing this, compared to other parties in Austria?

"They see it as a populist issue, that Austrians in general are opposed to nuclear power. They also see this as playing upon fears in Austria of European Union expansion, and what that might mean in terms of cross-border labour movement. Over a number of years, the Freedom Party has built quite a bit of its support on fear of EU expansion, and its Eastern neighbours. And we have to say that this is not just directed against the Czech Republic, they've done the same thing with Slovakia and Slovenia."

It seems that being a nuclear free country, the government perhaps should take a stand in this situation - do you think perhaps the government in Vienna have been told to keep quiet and to keep the official line away from the Temelin issue?

"There is certainly pressure on them from Brussels not to link this to the Czech Republic's entrance to the European Union. But I must say that the cooler heads within the government, certainly Foreign Minister Wagner realize that it would damage Austria's relationship with the Czech Republic and send a hugely negative signal to its other eastern neighbours, where relations are also strained - particularly for Slovenia, where questions are also raised at times about Austria's support for the European Union."

Germany until now, has always been a little bit aside from the Temelin issue - Germany getting involved now - do you think that that takes it to a new level?

"Yes it does, and that letter from Germany to the Czech Republic saying Temelin will be closed down, was greeted in Austria with quite a bit of joy, I would say. And now we have an MP in Upper Austria quoting out of a letter from the German Environment Minister Juergen Tritten. This letter says that Germany is prepared to support opposition Czech entry of the EU. Now, I think he's putting an odd interpretation on that letter, but if Austria sees that Germany will come with it, then perhaps opinion will shift here, and the stand of the government. But still, I think that that is unlikely."