Radical reform of the Euratom Treaty
SummaryContact your political representatives. These include: the Members of the Convention of the Future of Europe; the Members of the European Parliament representing your region; and the politicians in your own country that have and interest in these topics. Write a letter, send an email or a fax, ask for a meeting with them. Ask them what are they doing to represent your views about energy policies and about Euratom in particular.
The 1957 Euratom Treaty should be abolished. The Treaty's requirement to ensure that of the European Community promotes the "speedy establishment and growth" of the nuclear industry no longer applies in reality. It needs replacing by measures that reflect concern about public safety, environmental protection, democratic accountability, and that reflect the on-going drive for liberalised, integrated and competitive energy markets.
The debate about the future of Europe is underway. The period between now and the 2004 Inter-Governmental Conference is the optimum time in which the need to replace Euratom can finally be addressed. The "Convention on the Future of Europe" should consider the fundamental changes that are called for and recommend that scrapping Euratom is included in the new intergovernmental agreement. This process must begin now, as after the end of 2002 the Convention will not consider new topics.
The new European constitutional settlement being the foundation of a greatly enlarged Union in the 21st Century - must not be blighted by the continuation of the unjustified bias of Euratom towards the nuclear sector. Its aim must be to promote sustainable energy policies.
What is Euratom?
The Euratom Treaty was signed in Rome in 1957. The "European Atomic Energy Community" (as the agreement is also known) was signed at a time when the nuclear industry was seen as new, exciting and having great potential.
The main aim of Treaty is to undertake various measures that together promote and, to a lesser extent, to regulate nuclear power across Europe. Although a few minor procedural changes have been made, the Euratom Treaty today remains substantially unchanged, 45 years after it was drawn up, tasking the EU to promote nuclear despite most member countries not wishing to do so.
What is wrong with Euratom?
Unlike the European Coal and Steel Treaty, which expired after 50 years, the Euratom will never come to an end unless European states today agree to change it!
There is a conflict between the functions of promoting and regulating the nuclear industry. After 50 years, the industry should now be mature enough to promote itself, without extra help from European institutions and member governments. In future there should be a focus exclusively on the regulation of the nuclear sector.
The conflict between promotion and regulation, should it continue, will worsen. The Commission has recently proposed (only to the Council, not the Parliament) that it assumes new powers to regulate nuclear in the setting of standards for operational safety, radioactive waste management and rules on the funding of decommissioning.
Co-decision making procedures, normally shared by the European Parliament and Commission, do not exist under Euratom. Such decisions are therefore not subject to the same scrutiny as elsewhere, so actions taken under the Treaty suffer a heavy "democratic deficit".
The Treaty is legal basis for the Euratom loans system, which provide subsidised credit for developing nuclear projects. Proposals have recently been tabled to increase the loans ceiling to $6000M.
The last three Euratom research budgets (each over a five year period) have been in excess of $1000M, a sum larger than all the other energy research budgets added together! Although some of the budget is spent of nuclear safety and waste management, the largest part is spent on fusion research.
Was Euratom a failure?
In many ways, the Treaty failed to achieve much of what it set out to do. The 1950's optimism towards nuclear technology has clearly gone. During the 1960's, national self-interest led to only small research budgets and ineffective levels of cooperation. In 1969, a project named Orgel to develop a European commercial reactor was finally abandoned. The original Euratom negotiations also failed to avert the development of nuclear weapons capabilities. However the Treaty does of course still exist today and is still used for the function described in this briefing.
What are the options for change?
There is no doubt that energy matters are strategically important for the people and economy of Europe. It is, at the same time, essential to address the impact of energy systems on our environment, especially the issue of global climate change.
Europe cannot do without energy, but it must plan its energy strategy in a sensible and balanced way. This means that the bias in Euratom towards nuclear power should end, and that all energy matters (supply and demand, different technologies and fuels) are address together in a common framework.
There is a range of views as to what form a new framework for European energy strategy should be. Leaving Euratom in place however is not an acceptable option. Some functions, forexample dealing with protection of health and regulation of nuclear transports, are useful and should be retained but in a general treaty. What is essential is to begin examining and debating, in the Convention and elsewhere, what is the best way for Europe to formulate its future energy needs.
Why must it change now?
Europe is debating its future in the context of its biggest ever enlargement.
The Convention on the Future of Europe will during 2003 make recommendations for a new European Treaty to the Inter-Governmental Conference that follows.
Many parts of the European treaties will be changed and consolidated. It makes the time between now and 2004 an ideal time to radically reform the Euratom Treaty. If there is to be success, then the process must begin by the end of 2002, after which the Convention cannot accept new issues.
It will be in some ways a difficult campaign. The Treaty may be seen as both impenetrable and moribund. But if Europe in the future is to have a political foundation and constitution that European people can genuinely believe in, then the Euratom Treaty must be part of that process of change. Europeans cannot be proud of a constitutional settlement that remains so unjustifiably biased towards one controversial technology, nuclear power.
Many people, organisations and indeed countries believe there is no future for nuclear power. A combination of reasons has led many states, including Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and Spain, to abandon the nuclear option for good.
This view "that nuclear is not essential" must be reflected in the way Europe approaches energy questions.
What will a future European energy sector look like?
While coal, oil and gas are the main parts of the energy mix today, because of climate change this will not be so in the future. Drastically increased energy efficiency will reduce energy demand and make Europe a leader in modern technology. Targets to use more renewable energy systems will continue to increase.
If in future Europe is to get most of its energy from renewable sources, it must take a strategic approach to make that happen and redirect subsidies and investments from nuclear power (and fossil fuels) to energy efficiency and renewables. For example, in northern Europe, the exploitation of wind energy at sea will encompass large areas of the Baltic, North and Celtic seas.
Renewable energy helps maintain security of supply because it is produced close to where it is used, usually in the same region or country. More renewable energy means more security of supply. Renewable energy does not produce the same pollutants as carbon and uranium based fuels.
Take action to radically reform Euratom!
Euratom can be changed but only if enough people make enough pressure for it to happen. Now is certainly the right time to do so, but we have to raise the issue in every European country. Already a number of parties, institutions and Governments have called for Euratom to be included on the Convention agenda.
But more needs to happen. It will need to be a broad-based team effort. Here are some things you can do in your region to help the campaign:-
Make your voice heard. Whatever you do, tell journalists about it so they can get more people interested in the issue via the media.
Exchange information and ideas. Civil society organisations already have many established networks in place. Use these to spread ideas about Euratom reform and get other to actively support the campaign.
Friends of the Earth Europe
Mark Johnston, FoE Europe Nuclear Campaigner phone: +4479 73319249, e-mail:
Martin Rocholl, Director, phone: +32-2-542-0180, e-mail:
29 rue Blanche, B-1060 Brussels, Belgium
For more information: Friends of the Earth Europe
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