Verheugen supports the Czech Republic in the Temelin issue

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The Czech government has sharply rejected a resolution passed in the European Parliament calling for an international conference on the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia. The EU's Commissioner for enlargement, Gunter Verheugen indirectly supported the Czech Republic's stance on Temelin in Brussels on Monday. Alena Skodova has the details.

The Czech chief EU negotiator in Brussels, Pavel Telicka, told the EU on Monday that a conference to discuss the possible shutdown of the controversial nuclear power plant, located just 50 kilometres from the Austrian border, was unacceptable to the Czech government. Mr. Verheugen reacted by saying that if the Czech cabinet did not support the idea of an international conference on Temelin, then he could not go against the wishes of the Czech people.

Mr. Verheugen confirmed that the European Commission wants to have nothing in common with attempts to close the plant. Commentators say that a serious political obstacle that stood in the way in putting Temelin on line has thus been removed. It seems that the European Commission now intends to bring the issue of Temelin to a successful conclusion as soon as possible by fulfilling an agreement concluded late last year between the Austrian and Czech prime ministers. The main objective of the agreement was to ensure that Austrian concerns over safety at Temelin wouldn't be dealt with. Gunter Verheugen said on Monday that he wants to conclude a final agreement on Temelin and that he would not deal with other issues until that has been achieved. The importance that Mr. Verheugen places on the agreement represents an indirect rejection of further attempts to resolve the issue of Temelin in the international arena, which Czech negotiator Pavel Telicka has welcomed.

Political analysts, however, say that sweeping Temelin off the EU negotiating table is a slap in the face of Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, because he himself asked the European commission to organize an international conference on Temelin through the European Parliament. But Mr. Telicka has condemned the move, saying an international conference was not part of any agreement between Austria and the Czech Republic. Mr. Verheugen now plans to convene a Czech-Austrian summit meeting to resolve the matter once and for all. This would open up the way for the Czech Republic to put the plant into operation and then conclude the energy chapter of accession talks with the European Union, moving the country a step closer to EU membership.