Bulgarian accession in the balance

30 November 1999

Europe The Bulgarian parliament has approved government talks with the European Union over the closure of four units at Kozloduy. In return for Bulgaria agreeing a closure time-table the EU has promised to double grants available to the country to 700 million euros.

Bulgaria was left off the list of countries due to join the queue for EU membership when the issue is discussed in Helsinki in December (See NEI, Nov p3). Guenter Verheugen, the European commissioner responsible for enlargement, said inviting Bulgaria to talks without an agreement on Kozloduy would be unfair on Lithuania and Slovakia, which have agreed closure dates for Ignalina and Bohunice.

  Bulgarian government officials argued that the EU has an obligation to Bulgaria following the country’s support of NATO during the Kosovo war and that the conditions being imposed regarding Kozloduy are unreasonable.

Many Bulgarians oppose Kozloduy’s closure, fearing it would reduce export earnings and force Bulgaria to import power. Kozloduy plant manager Krassimit Nikolov argues that the four VVER 440 MWe units are safe following a $150 million upgrade and that Bulgaria stands to earn $1.2 billion by 2008 exporting electricity to Turkey. Closing the Kozloduy reactors would undermine this.

• Despite a Slovakian commitment to close Bohunice by 2008, ministers in the Austrian government are threatening to block any progress on the country’s accession to the EU unless the closure dates are brought forward. Barbara Brammer, the minister in charge of coordinating the country’s anti-nuclear policy, said that without a closure date of 2002 Austria would block Slovakia’s entry. But Austria’s policy is confused as Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel has indicated that he feels Austria’s interests are secured by the 2008 closure date.

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