Monday

8th Mar 2021

Austria draws first red line on EU growth fund

  • Nuclear power plant in Germany, which is in the process of phasing out the energy source (Photo: Bjoern Schwarz)

A key part of the new growth plan for Europe is that the investment projects are chosen on their merits rather than for ideological or political reasons, yet member states are already drawing their potential red lines.

Austria, firmly anti-nuclear, is kicking up about the fact that the planned €315 billion investment scheme could be used to fund the construction of nuclear power plants in Europe.

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“It surely cannot be seriously the case that we invest in a Stone Age technology”, Austrian environment minister Andra Rupprechter said Tuesday (16 December) according to press agency APA.

Rupprechter called on the Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann to “make [Austria's] massive reservations very clear” during a summit of EU leaders at the end of the week.

He said there should be “an appropriate formula” to ensure Austrian money isn't funding the construction of new nuclear power plants, although he deemed projects that increase the safety of existing plants "useful".

Rupprechter’s comments come as some member states have already called for money to be put towards nuclear projects.

The UK has requested a €57.8 billion loan for “three potential projects with a total of 12.2GW capacity”, including the controversial Hinkley Point C.

Poland hopes to launch nuclear power as a “new sector of the Polish economy” and aims to attract funding for the construction of a nuclear plant with a capacity of about 3 gigawatts.

Germany, for its part, is in the process of phasing out nuclear energy as part of its "energy change" following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.

Several other EU countries are also in the process of phasing out their dependence on nuclear power.

The EU's member states have presented around 2,000 projects that could be funded by the commission's proposed €315 billion investment plan.

The European Commission has said the projects should be chosen according to their quality.

Jyrki Katainen, the commissioner in charge of drumming up investors’ interest in the fund, Monday said that the private sector had told him that using political criteria to decide on projects would mean "no opportunity to attract investment any more".

Projects are instead to assessed by technical experts.

“There will be no sector-specific or country-specific quotas. It will be a non-political, technical assessment”, spokesperson Annika Breidthardt said Tuesday.

However she did not give a clear answer when asked if Austria could veto a project it did not agree with.

“Deciding the energy mix is solely the responsibility of the member states”, spokesperson Annika Breidthardt said.

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