Vienna determined to fight on
The Austrian Parliament on Thursday approved a resolution urging the Austrian government to do "everything in its power" to prevent the commercial launch of the Temelin nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia. Coming just hours after the two sides had agreed on the time and place for a meeting between the two countries' heads of government, the move evoked surprise and displeasure among Czech politicians. Daniela Lazarova has the story:
The speaker of the lower house, Vaclav Klaus, who had just returned from talks in Vienna, said he was "amazed" nobody had thought it necessary to inform him about the resolution beforehand. "I thought we had put our cards on the table and talked this over above-board, but obviously I was mistaken," Klaus told reporters.
Meanwhile, reassured by the recent show of support from the European Union, the Czech Foreign Ministry has been restrained in its response. "The Czech Foreign Ministry believes this matter can be successfully resolved," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil told reporters, adding that if an agreement was reached between the government leaders at their meeting in Brno, on October 31st, then this parliamentary resolution would "no longer be relevant."
However, commentators note that this depends to a large extent on how much weight Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel will attach to the parliamentary resolution and the verbal recommendations he has been given. The Czech prime minister will go to the bilateral meeting prepared to reassure his Austrian colleague that an assessment of Temelin's impact on the environment will be made available before Temelin's commercial launch, and that Vienna will be given all the information it needs. But he will certainly not be prepared to debate Temelin's closure. On the other hand, many Austrian MPs are urging their Chancellor to re-open the issue of alternative energy sources and even promise the Czechs support from Austria, should they be willing to close down their second power plant.
Everything points to the fact that the upcoming talks will not be easy, but no matter their outcome, they WILL bring one positive development: a renewal of top-level dialogue between Prague and Vienna.