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EU could face blackouts this winter, crisis commissioner warns

The European Union could face blackouts this winter as the continent faces an ongoing energy crisis amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, but Brussels is preparing for worst-case scenarios, according to EU Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič.

Asked in an interview published Tuesday by Germany’s RND media network whether EU countries would need disaster relief due to the energy crisis, Lenarčič responded: “Yes, that is quite possible.”

Lenarčič said the European Commission is considering two different scenarios: First, that “one or a small number of member states” will be affected “by a minor incident such as a blackout,” in which case other EU countries could support and deliver power generators to them “as happens during natural disasters,” Lenarčič said.

The second is that “a large number of countries” could be affected, in which case the EU’s strategic reserve would be used to meet demands.

Lenarčič said EU measures would come swiftly in case of an emergency, citing examples in recent years when generators and fuel were delivered to Slovenia on the same day that the country’s power grid was damaged in a snowstorm, as well as when EU support came immediately after an earthquake in Croatia in 2020.

He said the EU is more generally preparing for a winter of crises, explaining that since the experience of the coronavirus pandemic, Brussels has been trying to “anticipate crises” and avoid reacting only in the event of an emergency.

The commissioner also warned that apart from the ongoing war in Ukraine, there are also concerns about other disruptions such as in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and even Afghanistan spurred by “development problems and climate change impacts such as soil degradation, drought or flooding.” He added that such events are often the real causes behind conflicts — or can exacerbate them.

In this context, Lenarčič also advocated stepping up support despite rising energy prices, saying: “If we do not address the misery around us, it will come to us instead.”

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