As debate in Germany intensifies over a planned tax on nuclear power plant operators, the country's leader, Angela Merkel, steps in to try to ease the standoff between the government and the energy sector.
The country's nuclear plants are scheduled to go offline in 2020
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has tried to defuse an ongoing row with the German energy industry over government plans to introduce a tax on nuclear power providers by striking a conciliatory tone.
"It is important that, along with the critics of nuclear energy, we also hear from those who believe [nuclear energy] to be an essential bridge technology for some time to come," Merkel said in an interview for the Bild am Sonntag weekly newspaper, which was published on Sunday, August 22.
The Christian Democrat leader wants nuclear operators to pay the tax in exchange for an extension of the lifetimes of the country's nuclear plants, which are scheduled to cease operating in 2020.
"We want energy in Germany to be cleaner and more environmentally friendly, to be more secure, and to remain affordable for Germans and the economy," she said.
The German government will decide "on the question of energy supply for the coming decades and accordingly on the question of the prosperity of our country on the basis of comprehensive and rational debate," Merkel said.
Merkel said both sides of the argument should be heard
Merkel's comments come a day after a number of top managers and former politicians participated in an advertisement campaign, signing a protest letter that sharply criticized the planned tax on fuel rods.
Among those involved were energy giants E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall, as well as industrial leaders BASF, Bayer, TyssenKrupp and Germany's largest bank, Deutsche Bank.
"A policy that consists of filling the budget by creating new energy taxes amounts to blocking important future investments," the open letter said.
But Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said there would be no going back on plans to tax power companies 2.3 billion euros ($2.9 billion) each year as part of government efforts to balance public finances.
On Saturday, European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger threw his support behind the planned tax, calling on German nuclear energy providers to hand over at least half of the profits from extending the lifespan of their stations.
"It's quite normal for nuclear groups to protest at the idea of a tax, but they should give the authorities a large part of the sizeable profits accruing from the (extended) operation of nuclear plants," he said in an interview with daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
"I consider that at least 50 percent would be appropriate," Oettinger said.
Author: Darren Mara (AFP/Reuters)
Editor: Toma Tasovac