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Thursday, November 5, 2009

France pledges help in developing Polish nuclear power plants


Associated Press
11/05/09 7:00 AM PST PARIS — France pledged Thursday to help Poland develop nuclear power plants and deepen cooperation on energy policy, a move which could help Poland lessen its dependence on natural gas from Russia.

Poland will send scientists to France for training starting this fall, while France will provide Poland with technical assistance and the two countries will cooperate in nuclear research and development, a joint statement said.

"We take this very seriously," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told a news conference at the Elysee Palace following his meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Sarkozy said that France would be Poland's "exclusive" partner in nuclear development, but Tusk later said that Poland's energy policy had to be taken in a European context and that other countries down the road could participate once the projects were better defined.

"The plan is to have Poland's first nuclear power plant around the year 2020 and another one by the mid-20s," Tusk said.

France and Poland also said they want to work on developing convergence in the European gas market in order to "assure the security of (the natural gas) supply in Europe," the declaration said.

French-Polish ties appeared to be improving after several bumpy years, and Sarkozy paid tribute to Poland's stature as one of the "big" EU countries. "It's very easy to work with the Polish prime minister, with the Polish government," Sarkozy said.

On defense matters, the two countries appeared to have made progress in deepening their relations. France long has been wary of the primacy that Poland has put on its transatlantic relations with the United States. The two countries pledged to reinforce European security policy and in a significant new development said they would discuss nuclear dissuasion as well.

"Convinced of its importance, they (Poland and France) decided to open a bilateral dialogue on the role of nuclear dissuasion in the context of current security. Poland is the first country that does not have a nuclear weapon with which we (France) engage in such a dialogue," the summit communique said.

Agriculture, the environment and climate change also were on the agenda.

The two countries also decided to celebrate jointly the "Year of Chopin" in 2010 to celebrate the bicentennial of the pianist's birth and pay tribute to his Polish and French roots. They also announced a wide range of cultural events, including a retrospective on film director Andrzej Wajda and painter and writer Josef Czapski, who died in exile in France.

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