In the framework of a short legal opinion commissioned by the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, the law firm Becker Büttner Held (BBH) has analysed how the Euratom Treaty might be updated. The legal opinion concludes that a meaningful reform would be possible by consistently implementing the already existing proposals made by the European institutions.
Even the full title of Euratom seems to be behind the times: “Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community”. In view of the current EU policy which is committed to the expansion of renewable energy sources, the Euratom Treaty is a relic from the past providing nuclear energy with an unfair competitive advantage on the European electricity market. Millions in subsidies go to nuclear power plant projects such as Hinkley Point C in the UK or Paks II in Hungary; the judgment of the European Court of Justice in the lawsuits against the financing of such projects with subsidies the European Commission deems in line with EU state aid rules is still pending.
In the study “Pathways for a Reform of the Euratom Treaty”, BBH partner Dr. Dörte Fouquet thus calls for a fundamental modernisation of the Euratom Treaty on the basis of specific deliberations of the EU institutions. Instead of pursuing an outmoded agenda promoting nuclear energy within the EU, the study recommends filling important gaps in the treaty: in the current version, the treaty lacks provisions on energy security as well as uniform provisions on liability, the allocation of responsibilities and financing solutions regarding the dismantling of nuclear power plants and the disposal of radioactive waste. Furthermore, the legal opinion suggests that all of the discriminatory privileges for promoting nuclear energy should be removed from the treaty. BBH also points to a “democratic deficit” in the existing Euratom Treaty: The European Parliament has no decision-making powers in matters of the treaty, not even in the area of research.
“As long as the Euratom Treaty is constantly used to justify state aid that is out of touch with the market, the EU artificially promotes a ‘dinosaur technology’”, comments lawyer Dr. Dörte Fouquet, who has prepared the study.
Becker Büttner Held is a leading provider of advisory services for energy and infrastructure companies and their customers. Energy and supply companies, particularly public utilities, municipalities and local authorities, industrial companies and international groups are among its core clients. BBH advises these and many other companies and organisations in all legal matters and also assists them with business and strategic advice.
Dr. Ines Zenke
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