PARIS (Reuters) – The French and German finance ministers, during the first visit of new German Finance Minister Christian Lindner to Paris, said talks about the role of nuclear energy in European power markets will be difficult, even if they agreed on most other issues.
France, which will take on the rotating presidency of the European Union in January, wants to see nuclear power classified as sustainable energy in the European Union’s new “taxonomy” system to define sustainable investment.
However, many EU nations have abandoned nuclear energy and want EU funds to support renewable energies such as solar and wind.
“There is a lot of ground to cover…I think we will keep that question for desert, once we will have drunk together, and then we will find a compromise,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters ahead of a dinner with Lindner on Monday evening.
Both ministers said the two countries’ governments were broadly aligned on economic and fiscal policy as well as banking and financial markets regulation.
Lindner, a member of the liberal FDP party, said nuclear was “a difficult debate”, and referred to “the German political context”.
The two other parties in the German government coalition – the greens and social democrats – are less likely to agree with France’s demand to classify nuclear as sustainable energy.
Lindner said he was sure that talks between the French and German government and the European Commission on the nuclear issue would lead to “a good solution for all sides”.
France produces about three quarters of its electricity from nuclear energy and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government is keen to keep France’s struggling nuclear power industry alive with contracts for new nuclear reactors.
Classifying nuclear, which has the advantage of creating huge volumes of power without generating carbon emissions, as sustainable would make it easier for the industry to find investors and financing. But opponents point at the risk of accidents and the problem of long-lived nuclear waste.
At a joint conference with Hungarian prime minister in Budapest on Monday, Macron said nuclear power will be at the core of French energy and decarbonisation policies.
(This story has been refiled to fix typographical error in paragraph 6)
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Chris Reese and Barbara Lewis)