Can Austria's Chancellor Schuessel steer safe course over Temelin?

22-11-2001

The vast majority of Austrians look at Temelin with a mixture of fear and loathing. They've always been against the troubled plant - a combination of Soviet design and Western safety technology - saying the Czechs have created an atomic Frankenstein. But their problem is they can't agree on what to do about it. Kerry Skyring is from Radio Austria International.

"What you have is four anti-nuclear parties, but not four common positions on Temelin. And that's Austria's problem."

Those four parties are sharply divided over how to proceed on Temelin. Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel is in an unenviable position: his junior coalition partners, the far-right Freedom Party, have built their political success on manipulating Austrian public opinion, and say Austria should reserve the right to veto Czech EU membership over the plant.

But Chancellor Schuessel is too much of a pragmatist to take such demands seriously. The majority of Austrians may be against Temelin, but he knows the EU has no common policy on nuclear power. An Austrian veto of enlargement would ruin three years of careful diplomatic fence-mending with Brussels since the storm of criticism that followed his decision to invite the Freedom Party into government. Mr Schuessel says only continued negotiations with Prague will ensure the best deal on safety.

And of course the Chancellor doesn't just have problems within his own government. The opposition Greens and Social Democrats also have their own ideas about how Austria should proceed on Temelin. The Greens were so furious about what they say is Mr Schuessel's back-peddling over the issue, that on Monday they occupied his party headquarters in protest. So can Chancellor Schuessel steer a safe course between these opposing camps, which reflect Austrian fear and confusion over Europe's newest nuclear power plant? Well despite the disagreements, Radio Austria International's Kerry Skyring thinks he can.

"Most people I think do realise that this is a decision for the Czech Republic. They want to put as much pressure as possible on the Czech Republic to close it down. Obviously that's not possible at the moment, and the most pragmatic position, the most reasonable position, is that taken by the Chancellor. That is to try and achieve the best possible safety conditions at Temelin: to have those open safety questions answered as well as possible."

22-11-2001