EU demands France come clean on N-tests

SARAH HELM

Brussels

Risking a head-on clash with Paris, the European Commission last night stepped up pressure on Jacques Chirac, the French President, to halt nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

Amid threats from the European Parliament to sack the Commission if it failed to act, Jacques Santer told the parliament in Strasbourg that the Commission - of which he is President - had voted yesterday to invoke its powers under the Euratom Treaty by sending a letter to the French government demanding more information on health and safety measures.

Under article 34 of the Euratom Treaty, the Commission has the responsibility to protect the population of member states in case of "a particularly dangerous experiment''. It is understood that France has been given five days to respond. Mr Santer confirmed that the Commission had been denied crucial data from the French government on the affects of the tests on geological strata, and that a Commission team had been denied access to key sites.

In theory the Commission's decision yesterday could lead to an action before the European Court of Justice in which France could be held liable for failing to protect people in the area of the tests. But there were fears that Mr Santer's announcement might simply be a new ploy to buy time. To stave off an immediate confrontation with Mr Chirac, Mr Santer said the Commission would not take a final view on legal action until all the information from Paris had been assessed at a further meeting in Strasbourg on 23 October, when, said Mr Santer, "the Commission will adopt an opinion in line with the article''. The Commission was left in no doubt last night as to the likely response from the European Parliament, should it reduce its pressure on the French government, or dodge a decision to take France to court if all the information is not provided.

Addressing the parliament yesterday, Pauline Green, leader of the Socialists, denounced the French tests as "unacceptable, unwarranted and colonialist''. She demanded that Mr Santer keep his vow, made when he assumed office in January, to maintain the principle of openness. "The credibility of the Commission is on the line," said Mrs Green, who also challenged Mr Santer to come clean about any private agreement he may have with Mr Chirac not to invoke the Euratom Treaty. Last week it was revealed that the French government believed it had assurances from Mr Santer that the Commission would not take it to court over the tests.

As he addressed the parliament Mr Santer was clearly aware of the high political stakes involved. Outside the building Greenpeace demonstrators massed, rolling out a dummy bomb. Throughout the week the two French members of the 20-member Commission have been fiercely lobbying in Brussels to prevent the sending of yesterday's letter. However, the drive to pressure the French has won the support of commissioners from Germany, Austria, Italy and Scandinavia. Neil Kinnock, the British Transport Commissioner, also supported the action.

There was no immediate response from Paris, but the next few days are certain to bring a strong rearguard action from the French, who still question whether the Euratom Treaty applies to the tests.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence