French Green presidential candidate goes awol as nuclear row rumbles
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There’s speculation that France’s Ecology and Green Movement candidate in presidential elections next year, is about to pull out of the race, after a week in which she has been conspicuously absent from a debate about nuclear policy.
Eva Joly cancelled her appearance in a debate on France 2 television channel on Thursday evening, and a key Ecology politician, Noel Mamère, triggered rumours that she was about to throw in the towel, when he told interviewers that she was “taking time to think things over”.
Eva Joly has been forced into an extremely awkward political position, following an accord thrashed out on Tuesday night between her EELV movement (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts) and the Socialist Party.
She was not involved in the negotiations and is thought to be extremely unhappy with the final accord signed by Green Party leader Cécile Duflot, and Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry.
Eva Joly has frequently stated in the past that she would not agree to any deal with the Socialists unless they backed her demand to halt construction of a new-generation EPR nuclear reactor at Flamanville in northern France.
Tuesday’s accord includes no such commitment.
She will not attend the EE-LV council meeting on Saturday, when the accord is expected to be approved by vote.
On Friday key figures in the EELV party (Europe Ecologie Les Verts) rushed to insist that she is still in the race and Cécile Duflot told journalists that she “will resume campaigning at the beginning of next week.”
France’s nuclear energy policy could become a key issue in next year’s election campaign.
Though surveys show the French are still broadly supportive of France’s nuclear energy programme, there has been more public debate on the subject since the atomic disaster at Fukushima in Japan.
Tuesday’s agreement between the opposition Socialists and Greens is the first significant move towards limiting nuclear power since the 1970s when France invested in nuclear energy after the oil crisis.
Under the Socialist-Greens deal, both parties will jointly campaign in next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections to reduce France’s reliance on nuclear energy from 75 per cent to 50 per cent, by shutting down 24 nuclear reactors by 2025.
France is the world’s most nuclear-dependent country, operating 58 reactors.
Nuclear energy is also one of France’s most successful sectors – the French company Areva has built reactors around the world, and French companies also operate many of them.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy was quick to criticise the Socialist-Green nuclear pact, warning that reducing atomic power production could compromise France’s energy security and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.