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Austrian report
by Euro Reporter
2015-06-30 11:14:33
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Austria delays complaint against UK nuclear power plant

Austria, which was due to file a legal complaint on Monday against EU-granted state subsidies for a new nuclear power plant in Britain, has delayed the move by several days, a source said. Last week, the government announced it would formally challenge the subsidies for the Hinkley Point C project in the European Court of Justice on June 29. Austria argues the proposal is in breach of European law and risks distorting the energy market. “The complaint initially announced for this Monday will probably not be filed before Wednesday,” a source familiar with the case told AFP.

austria_400_01Under the disputed deal, Britain would help fund the construction of two new reactors in southwest England. As part of the agreement, the British government would guarantee an elevated 35-year fixed electricity rate to French energy group EDF, which would be in charge of the building the plant. But Austria’s Deputy Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner said that “subsidising a technology which has been around for several decades, and is unprofitable once you take into account all the costs, goes against the basic logic of European law regarding state aid.” Initially projected to cost £16 billion ($25 billion, 22.6 billion euros), EU officials now estimate the project will require £24.5 billion.

Despite opposition from activists and several member states, the European Commission approved the project in October after Britain modified funding plans for the deal.  “We are confident that the European Commission’s state aid decision on Hinkley Point C is legally robust and have no reason to believe that Austria will submit a challenge of any merit,” a spokeswoman for Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change said last week.  Environmentalists see Hinkley Point as an unnecessary support of nuclear energy just when the use of renewables, such as wind and solar power, is beginning to take hold.


Austrians launch petition to quit EU

Austrians have launched a petition to quit the EU, arguing that the nation will be better off economically if it leaves the union. To force the national parliament to consider the initiative activists need to have gathered 100,000 signatures by July 1. The petition was started by a retired 66-year-old translator, Inge Rauscher, who has collected enough signatures to launch an official campaign. The plea seeks to request that the national parliament debate the idea of a referendum on quitting the EU. However, to get that issue even discussed, the petition must gather 100,000 signatures. “We want to go back to a neutral and peace-loving Austria,” Rauscher said at the start of the campaign this week. Austrians have until July 1 to sign the petition which they can do in municipal or district offices.

Rauscher and her non-partisan Heimat & Umwelt committee (Homeland and Environment) argue that Austria will benefit from leaving the EU both economically and environmentally. She also criticized Austria’s forceful endorsement of EU sanctions against Russia, generally blaming Brussels for the economic downturn. “We are not any longer a sovereign state in the European Union. Over 80 percent of all essential legislation is being imposed by Brussels, not by elected commissioners. In our view, Europe is not a democracy. The European Parliament does not even have legislative powers,” Rauscher told Sputnik Radio. An independent Austria, the committee believes, would gain an extra €9,800 ($10,900) per household per year, because the country will be freed from the burdens of EU bureaucracy.

Recent polls show that only about one third of Austrians would be in favor of leaving the EU, according to the Local. The idea is championed by both the right-wing Freedom Party and the Euro-skeptic Team Stronach party. “This initiative is open for all political parties and we expect a broad support,” Rauscher said. “This is proved by our numerous conversations with the citizens over the past months.”


Austria finance minister says Greece would have to ask to leave EU

Austria's finance minister said a Greek exit from the euro - or Grexit - would only be possible if Athens first asked to leave the European Union and other countries agreed to its request.

Athens has called a July 5 referendum so that Greek voters can decide on whether to accept new, tougher bailout terms that the government itself opposes.

"The consequences for the euro countries are not nearly as bad as for Greece. It's clear that one country can under no circumstances blackmail the European Commission and the euro countries," Hans Joerg Schelling was quoted as saying in Sunday's print edition of Austrian newspaper Die Presse.


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