Zeman, Schuessel to meet for key meeting on future of Temelin

Temelin nuclear power

Technicians at the troubled Temelin nuclear power station restarted the plant's reactor on Wednesday, amid speculation that the Czech Republic and Austria are finally close to settling a bitter dispute over the plant's safety. The Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel are to meet in Brussels on Thursday, for talks mediated by the European Commission. Radio Prague's Rob Cameron has been following the story, and joins me in the studio now. What can we expect from Thursday's meeting Rob?

And both Prime Minister Zeman and Chancellor Schuessel are under a fair bit of pressure on this one aren't they?

"They are indeed. Mr Schuessel is under intense pressure; from ordinary Austrians - most of whom are deeply worried about safety at Temelin, from the powerful Green lobby, and even from his own coalition partners, the far-right Freedom Party - who want Austria to veto the Czech Republic's membership of the EU over Temelin. Meanwhile Mr Zeman wants to close energy talks with the EU, to keep the enlargement process on track. But even he can't make too many concessions - there's a strong nuclear lobby in the Czech Republic, and of course Prague has already spent 100 billion crowns on Temelin. They don't want to spend too much more fulfilling Austrian demands."

Right - so who's in the stronger position - Mr Zeman or Mr Schuessel?

"Mr Zeman, definitely. The International Atomic Energy Agency said this week that Temelin is safe, even Austria's own Environment Institute said on Wednesday it was safe. The EU has no single policy on nuclear power - they say it's up to individual members to decide their energy policy, and they've refused an Austrian request for an international conference on ways to shut down Temelin."

Mr Schussel's in a rather unenviable position then?

"Yes. His government is in serious disarray over Temelin. As I said the Freedom Party is demanding a veto of Czech EU membership - although colleagues in Austria have told me the party will not go as far as pulling out of Mr Schuessel's coalition - that would be political suicide for them. But Austria doesn't have many friends in the EU, and Mr Schuessel will have to do a very delicate balancing act: he has to produce a deal which pleases the Austrian people, the European Union, partners within his own government and the green lobby. It's a tall order - and Mr Schuessel will have to use all diplomatic skills to pull it off."