Temelin back in news as Freedom Party threatens to bring down govt


The controversial Temelin nuclear power station is back in the news again - the parliamentary leader of Austria's junior coalition Freedom Party, Peter Westenthaler, said on Wednesday his party would continue to demand a veto of the Czech Republic´s membership of the European Union over Temelin, even at the cost of bringing down the Austrian government. The far-right Freedom Party says it's going to collect signatures in favour of the veto, although Mr Westenthaler did say if less than half a million signatures are collected, the party will drop the issue. Earlier Lucie Mouckova spoke to Kerry Skyring from Radio Austria International, and she began by asking him whether the dispute was really environmental, or just political.

"It is definitely a political issue and I mean obviously many Austrians can have serious environmental concerns about Temelin. But what we´re seeing from the Freedom Party as a Temelin issue. They see that they can exploit public opinion on this. They do run the risk of splitting the government over this but I don´t think that the threat can be taken seriously at the moment. I really don´t think the government is about to split on this right now. But if we would be - say - looking at the period in 2003, around when an election is due in Austria, I think it´s a risk then. But a lot can happen in the meantime. The Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel re-emphasised just a couple of days ago that there would be no EU veto of the Czech Republic over Temelin. We´ve just seen the Environment Minister today saying what is needed here is serious negotiations, no talk of a veto."

Are ordinary Austrians, especially those living close to Czech-Austrian border really afraid of Temelin, of Temelin´s safety? And if it is so, do you think that their concerns are legitimate?

"The people living near the border do have fears about the safety of Temelin, without doubt. I think quite an overwhelming majority would be against the plant. Whether those fears are legitimate or not, that´s hard to say. We´ve spoken to the International Atomic Agency here, they say, Temelin is on a par with other nuclear power plants in the region, in terms of its safety. Perhaps it doesn´t match with some of the Western European power stations. And, if you combine that with the general anti-nuclear attitude that most Austrians hold, then I think they´ve got a case to campaign for Temelin to be shut down."

Europe is actually full of all nuclear power plants. For example France has got more than 80 power plants and some of them may be 30, 40 or maybe 50 years old. Very similar problems as with Temelin have been in Slovakia while launching their nuclear power plant in Mochovce. So why is Austria picking out the Czech plant?

"That´s a very difficult question to answer. And you´re right to point out some contradictions in the Austrian position. I really can´t answer that except to say this one is close, they saw the oportunity to perhaps have it shut down before it got started, and that protesters continued on. I think also mixed in there is the general poor relationship between the Czech Republic and Austria. But that relationship has never been repaired properly, or built up properly."

Do ordinary Austrians feel that Czech´s EU entry should be blocked over Temelin issue?

"I haven´t got the latest public opinions on that so I´m really just speaking from my own estimation of this. I would say a significant number do, but whether it´s a majority I´m not sure."

Author: Lucie Moučková
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