Thursday

17th Jan 2019

Calls for revision of Europe's atomic treaty

Ireland, which will take over the EU Presidency from January, has supported Austria in its calls for a separate conference to review the Union's atomic treaty, Euratom.

"The Austrian suggestion that the Euratom Treaty be subject to a full review is a

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very sensible suggestion" said Irish Minister for Europe, Dick Roche.

"While I appreciate that this is a matter of great sensitivity for EU members that have significant nuclear industries, the matter is also a sensitive matter for member states who do not" continued the Irish Minister.

Euratom, drawn up in 1957, has as one of its objectives the "speedy establishment and growth" of nuclear power.

"It was written for a different era with very different set of values. For example, it makes little or no specific mention of aspects of great concern to our citizens, such as the operational safety of nuclear power plants and radioactive waste storage or disposal facilities" said Mr Roche.

For its part, Austria has long been an anti-nuclear state – a popular vote in the 1970s saw nuclear power strongly rejected.

Last year, Vienna hit the headlines by threatening to hinder enlargement if the Czech Republic did not take steps to close down its Temelin nuclear plant – the theme remains a very contentious issue between the two countries.

Spain causes anger

Ireland’s backing of Austria comes after recent requests by the Spanish government – made during the current talks to finalise the EU Constitution - that the Euratom treaty be fully merged within the EU Constitution.

Green organisations have reacted angrily to the proposal.

"It is not acceptable for the newly constituted European Union to have as an explicit objective the promotion of nuclear power," says Mark Johnston, a campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe.

New Constitution – a question of political will

Euratom is addressed in a Protocol at the end of the draft Constitution, which states that it will continue to have "full legal effect".

This means that Euratom will have the same legal status as the new Constitution – so that nuclear industry will continue to be strongly promoted.

For the moment the majority of member states have not had the political will to focus on the Euratom issue, which has been overlooked in the general rush to get a Constitutional deal by mid-December as planned.

However, organizations such as Greenpeace argue that it would not require a huge alteration to the draft Constitution if member states would agree to either phase out Euratom at a later date or simply curb the treaty’s power to promote nuclear energy.

The European Parliament is in agreement. On 24 September it passed a resolution urging member states "to convene a Treaty revision conference in order to repeal the obsolete and outdated provisions of the Treaty, notably concerning the promotion of nuclear energy and the lack of democratic decision making procedures".

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