New row flares over German nuclear phase-out

EU Commission dragged into dispute between federal government, CDU/CSU-run states

German chancellor Gerhard Schröder on Saturday rebuffed a new attempt by three opposition-run state governments to derail the federal administration's nuclear phase-out policy. It has simultaneously emerged that the European Commission has, for the first time, been drawn directly into the controversial German debate over nuclear power.

Mr Schröder's comments, in a newspaper interview, follow declarations by the CDU/CSU heads of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse that they would unite to fight the SPD/Green federal government's nuclear phase-out. In response, the chancellor threatened that future legislation requiring closure of Germany's 19 nuclear power stations would be drafted in such a way as to bypass the upper parliamentary house, Bundesrat, where the states are represented.

As the row escalated, it also emerged late last week that the pro-nuclear head of Bavaria, Edmund Stoiber, had complained to the head of the European Commission over the federal government's plans. The Commission today released the text of Mr Prodi's reply, sent on 11 April.

In a letter to Mr Prodi sent in February, Mr Stoiber had claimed that, by forcing a phase-out of nuclear power, Germany would breach the 1957 Euratom treaty, which operates parallel to the EU. He also suggested that closing nuclear power stations would prevent Germany reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and alleged that the proposed eventual ban on nuclear transports would be in breach of internal market rules in the Euratom treaty.

Mr Prodi's reply offers no immediate help to Mr Stoiber. In particular, he stresses that, even though the Euratom treaty aims at "promoting" nuclear power, "it is up to each member state to decide to introduce or maintain nuclear power as an energy source". His letter sidesteps the issue of implications of nuclear phase-out for greenhouse gas emissions.

This latest flurry of debate over German nuclear phase-out follows nearly a month in which little news has emerged over the state of sensitive "consensus" talks between the government and the power industry. The parties are next due to meet in early May, after an earlier government deadline to finalise an agreement by the end of February passed without a resolution (ENDS Daily 10 March). Mr Schröder is now pushing for an end to the talks by the summer.

In related developments, the opposition CDU has stepped up its federal-level opposition to nuclear phase, holding its own meetings with the nuclear industry on 13 April. Meanwhile, a coalition of four German environmental groups has marked tomorrow's 14th anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster by demanding that plans for nuclear phase-out be speeded up.

Follow Up:
German chancellor's office, tel: +49 30 40000; The text of Romano Prodi's letter to Edmund Stoiber is posted on Rapid, dated 25/4/00.

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