Austrian threats to block Slovakia’s EU membership following a dispute over the shutdown of the Bohunice nuclear plant are not viewed as serious. Slovakia is seeking full membership negotiations when EU leaders assess progress by candidate countries at their December summit – a decision requiring Austrian support. Slovakia’s decision to defer the planned closure of Bohunice beyond 2000 has angered Austria, although the EU has accepted a Slovak plan to begin closure of the two reactors in 2006 and 2008.
“This date is not acceptable for Austria. They have broken their word,” Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima said.
The EU Commission welcomed the timetable. “Slovakia has made an important step in its European integration efforts, and has confirmed that the EU accession objective constitutes an over-riding political priority,” said a Commission statement. “The Commission had already indicated its willingness to propose an important financial contribution to the costs of decommissioning, provided there was a satisfactory closure date. Now that the government has taken its decision, the Commission can propose a Euratom loan facility and additional major funding from the PHARE programme, starting in 1999. The Commission is ready to work with Slovakia to find other donors to mobilise additional funding.” The Slovak announcement was a revision of policy which scheduled closure of the units between 2010 and 2015.