Czechs cannot halt trade with Russia over Ukrainian events - PM


03.03.2014 19:00

Ostrava - The Czech Republic cannot halt its trade relations with Russia over the Ukrainian developments, PM Bohuslav Sobotka told reporters today in reaction to two ministers saying they cannot imagine a Russian firm completing the Czech nuclear power plant Temelin.


Premiér Bohuslav Sobotka vystoupil 21. února v Poděbradech na tiskové konferenci k představení změn v českém lázeňství. ČTK Šimánek Vít

The government´s interference in the ongoing tender for the completion of Temelin would be difficult as CEZ, the energy utility that operates Temelin, is not fully state-controlled, Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said.

Martin Stropnicky (ANO) and Jiri Dienstbier (CSSD), ministers of defence and legislation in Sobotka´s centre-left cabinet, respectively, said earlier today that in view of the Russian invasion of Crimea they cannot imagine a Russian company winning the Temelin tender.

"We cannot be expected to burn down all bridges and scrap all our trade relations with Russia over the [Crimean] crisis. Such step would be very imprudent and I believe that no one expects us to take it," Sobotka told journalists during a visit to Moravia-Silesia.

He said the Temelin tender is a transparent competition held in accordance with rules.

"The criteria have been set, they are technical, legal and economic criteria. They will be met. There are no political criteria that would enable the government to interfere in the tender in a way my colleagues (Stropnicky and Dienstbier) indicated," Sobotka said.

He pointed out that the tender has been organised by CEZ, in which the state has a 70-percent stake. An interference in it by the government would be "quite a complex mechanism" even if the government wanted to interfere.

"In my opinion there is no reason for such an interference," Sobotka said.

He said the Czech Republic should seek a diplomatic solution [to the tension between Ukraine and Russia] instead of imposing trade sanctions that would negatively afflict not only common Russians and Ukrainians but also Czechs.

Stropnicky today said he "can hardly imagine" Russian firms building two new units in the Czech nuclear power plant Temelin now that Russia has left the group of predictable democratic countries.

The intervention is unacceptable and Russia has flagrantly violated international law, he added.

Dienstbier said he shares Stropnicky´s view.

Temelin, situated near the Austrian border, has two units and the planned extra two units would more than double its output. Under the original schedule, the winner of the tender worth hundreds of billions of crowns was to be known last autumn. But Temelin´s operator CEZ said previously the decision on the building of new units would be made in late 2014 or in 2015.

Czech President Milos Zeman repeated today that he favours a new tender.

"I can only repeat my opinion...that the ongoing tender should be terminated without choosing a winner and the new tender could be joined, for example, by France´s Areva or a possible South Korean investor," Zeman told CTK via his spokesman.

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