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EUROPEAN UNION

Turkey slams Austria ‘discrimination’ over new government programme

Turkey on Sunday slammed the incoming Austrian government, a coalition between conservatives and the far-right, for "discrimination" after its programme contained a pledge that Vienna will not agree to Ankara joining the EU.

Turkey slams Austria 'discrimination' over new government programme
Turkey has slammed the incoming Austrian government for 'discrimination'. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP

The landmark coalition deal, marking the return to power in Austria of the Freedom Party (FPOe), has sparked ripples of concern throughout Europe after a year of successes for far-right movements in Europe.

The chancellor-elect, Sebastian Kurz of the conservative People's Party (OeVP), already has a deeply-fractious relationship with Ankara due to his staunch opposition to Turkey's EU bid while serving as foreign minister.

“This baseless and short-sighted statement in the new Austrian government's programme unfortunately confirms concerns about a political trend based on discrimination and marginalisation,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

Accusing the incoming government of “dishonesty”, it warned that if realised, the programme would bring Austria “to the brink of losing Turkey's friendship” and be met with “the reaction that it deserves”.

Turkey's decades-long ambition to join the EU has hit the buffers in recent months as the bloc sounded the alarm over the crackdown that followed the 2016 coup bid aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

While Austria has called for the accession process to be formally halted, this has met with opposition from key EU members, notably Germany.

Meeting Erdogan on his trip to Greece earlier this month — the first by a Turkish president in 65 years — Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also backed Turkey's EU bid.

But last month, the EU cut funds destined to Turkey in the 2018 budget, citing doubts about Ankara's commitment to democracy and human rights in a move supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

EUROPEAN UNION

EU court rejects Austria case against Hungary nuclear plant

The EU's second highest court on Wednesday rejected a complaint by Austria against a European Commission decision to approve the expansion of a nuclear plant in neighbouring Hungary with Russian aid.

EU court rejects Austria case against Hungary nuclear plant

Staunchly anti-nuclear Austria lodged the legal complaint in 2018 after the European Union’s executive arm allowed the expansion of the Paks nuclear plant outside the Hungarian capital Budapest with a 10-billion-euro ($12.4 billion) Russian loan.

The plant is Hungary’s only nuclear facility and supplies around 40 percent of its electricity needs.

In its decision the commission judged that the project met EU rules on state aid, but Austria disputed this.

The General Court of the EU ruled Wednesday that “member states are free to determine the composition of their own energy mix and that the Commission cannot require that state financing be allocated to alternative energy sources.”

READ ALSO: Why is Austria so anti nuclear power? 

Hungary aims to have two new reactors enter service by 2030, more than doubling the plant’s current capacity with the 12.5-billion-euro construction. The Paks plant was built with Soviet-era technology in the 1980s during Hungary’s communist period. 

The construction of two new reactors is part of a 2014 deal struck between Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Victor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The work is carried out by Moscow’s state-owned nuclear agency Rosatom.

The details of the deal have been classified for 30 years for “national security reasons” with critics alleging this could conceal corruption.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What are the chances of blackouts in Austria this winter?

Since the late 1970s, Austria has been fiercely anti-nuclear, starting with an unprecedented vote by its population that prevented the country’s only plant from providing a watt of power.

Last month, the Alpine EU member filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice over the bloc’s decision to label nuclear power as green.

In 2020, the top EU court threw out an appeal by Austria to find British government subsidies for the nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in breach of the bloc’s state aid rules.

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