Austrian leaders fight over EU enlargement

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel has criticised his government coalition partner, Jörg Haider, for his campaign against EU enlargement. Mr Haider, leader of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party, demands more EU aid for Austria’s border regions in order to avoid Vienna’s veto to enlargement. He has also threatened to veto Czech membership of the EU unless the Czech Republic closes down the nuclear power plant in Temelin.

Mr Haider’s party has started collecting signatures for a petition to demand an Austrian veto against the Czech Republic unless the Temelin reactor is closed down. The petition, which requires 8,000 signatures, will be initiated this autumn. The Austrians have rejected nuclear energy in a referendum in 1978, and fear the Soviet-type nuclear reactor in Temelin, close to the Austrian border.

Chacellor Schüssel leader of the pro-European People’s Party, said in an interview with Die Presse that the threat of a veto “has no sense because it will not make Temelin any safer, and will relegate Austria to the margin of Europe instead of placing it in the heart of Europe”.

President of the Freedom Party and Vice-Chancellor Susanne Riess-Passer proposed in June to organise separate referenda on the adhesion of each candidate country to the EU. A recent opinion poll showed that 49 percent of Austrians are against enlargement. Chancellor Schüssel has firmly rejected any referendum on enlargement.

 

Austria is capable of blocking the enlargement process because the accession of each new member requires the assent of each of the current Member States' parliaments.

 

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