Brussels, 14 Nov 2003
The location to be put forward by the EU to host the international thermo nuclear experimental reactor (ITER) may have to be decided by a vote, following the failure by Europe's research ministers reach a consensus on two sites in France and Spain.
The European bid will be up against bids from Japan and Canada, two of the other partners in the project, which will cost around 10 billion euro and create roughly 10,000 new jobs. The two European options are Cadarache in France and Vandellós in Spain. One aspect on which all parties do agree is that ITER is more likely to come to Europe if only one bid is submitted.
'[A vote] is one of the scenarios, certainly,' said a Commission spokesperson. 'It seems that there is not a strong willingness to come to a mutual agreement, and the Italian Presidency has had to make some discrete or delicate threats indicating that a vote might be necessary.'
The Commission attempted to make the decision easier for research ministers earlier this year when it commissioned an independent study on all aspects of the two sites. However, those charged with carrying out the analysis were unable to recommend one site over the other, concluding that both France and Spain have presented 'outstanding bids'.
If a vote were to be necessary, it would probably take place during the next Competitiveness Council on November, and would require a simple majority to decide the location of the site. A final decision before the ITER international forum at the beginning of December is desirable.
The Commission remains hopeful, however, that such a vote will not be necessary. 'We are fighting hard to avoid such a divisive outcome to the situation, as it will certainly leave someone unhappy with the result,' said the Commission spokesperson. 'We are working hard with both France and Spain to try and find an agreement: a package of concessions acceptable to all parties.'
The spokesperson warned that failure to reach consensus on a European candidate would effectively open the way for one of the competitors, probably Japan, to claim victory. 'The Japanese currently have the strongest candidate outside of Europe, after Canada indicated that it may not have the budget to support its original bid. I'm sure Japan would be happy if no decision is reached in Europe, as the final choice of locations looks like being between Japan and Europe.'
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