Trilateral summit in Austria: the attempt of a small power to convince its neighbours to opt out of nuclear energy

31.03.2015 | By Roman Oeschger

Last weekend Austrian Chancellor Faymann welcomed Croatian Prime Minister Milanović and Slovenian Prime Minister Cerar to the 4 th annual trilateral summit in Schladming. Although different EU affairs were discussed the predominate topic was energy policy. In this context, European Commissioner for Energy Šefčovič was also invited to maintain the importance of European Energy Union. In addition, this meeting made also clear that Austria, as a small regional power, wants to use its weight to convince its neighbours to support sustainable energy and to abandon nuclear energy in perspective.  

First of all, to clarify, Austria is only one of a few European countries without a single nuclear power plant. Although Croatia does not also have such a plant on its territory it nevertheless has a 50% share in the Slovenian nuclear power plant in Krško. Thus, Slovenia and Croatia are involved in nuclear energy. It is therefore no surprise that both prime ministers see nuclear energy as one important component of an energy mix to guarantee energy security.

This idea of a secure energy mix including nuclear energy is also supported by EU commissioner Šefčovič who is responsible for developing a plan for a European Energy Union. He stands up for a flexible energy market where every country can choose its own way of putting together its energy supply. Therefore the priority of Šefčovič is energy independency. The current political situation in Europe seems to be an argument for this kind of approach.

But for Faymann there is no reasonable argument for nuclear power. In fact, he believes that in supporting and improving sustainable energy the energy dependency can be reduced. He also expressed that an efficient European Energy Union can improve the integration of green energy in the future. So, he claims that the EU must now begin to invest more money in renewable and sustainable energy in order to offer alternatives to nuclear energy. Consequently, the summit was also a chance for Faymann to convince Croatia and Slovenia of that Austrian standpoint.

In fact, Milanović and Cerar expressed their support for sustainable energy production. All participants, including Šefčovič, finally agreed that the EU must invest more in innovation to improve integration regarding green energy. Also, Croatia and Slovenia want to do their part to progress in this field of discussion. Or as Cerar stated “We are on the right track.”

As a result, Faymann did not seem to be completely unhappy with the summit. Nevertheless, too much optimism might be out of place because as Milanović put it straight: We wish to have higher percentage [renewable energy] but, at the moment, we do not have an alternative to nuclear energy. It would be super but life is more real.”