Austrian chancellor seeks meeting with David Cameron after UK warns it will take every opportunity to damage country in spat over nuclear reactor lawsuit.
UK ministers are warning their Austrian counterparts that an arsenal of retaliatory measures will be launched if Vienna goes ahead with plans to challenge an EU state aid decision approving subsidies for new nuclear reactors at Hinkley point in Somerset.
Initial measures would include: a complaint to the European Court about Austrian electricity labelling rules, pressure for Austria to contribute more to EU effort – sharing funds when it does not accept nuclear power as a “sustainable energy source”, and an investigation into whether Austria’s suit violated the Euratom treaty.
“Further steps and escalation cannot be excluded after the complaint has been submitted,” the cable says.
Austria’s chancellor Werner Faymann is seeking a meeting with David Cameron at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, after the foreign minister, Philip Hammond, called his Austrian opposite number, Sebastian Kurz, to protest Austria’s planned court action, the Guardian has learned.
“The chancellor has made clear that Austria will not act under pressure, and will of course make use of all legal means at her disposal,” a spokesman for chancellor Faymann told the Guardian. “Issuing threats is a kind of behaviour we don’t want to see among partners in the EU.”
According to the cable, Austrian diplomats told Rangarajan that the country was not challenging the UK’s right to choose its energy mix, merely the compatibility of the UK’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme with EU rules on state aid.
Under CfD, the nuclear plant’s operator, EDF, has been guaranteed a strike-price of £92.50 per megawatt hour for electricity produced at Hinkley – around double the market rate – over a 35-year period.
The cable concludes that the UK has started “systematic preparation of counter measures to damage Austria and has today informed about the result of its first considerations”.
Read more at UK threatens to hit back at Austria over Hinkley Point legal challenge