It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when” some parts of the bloc go dark, Vienna’s defense minister has said.
The European Union has little chance of staving off power outages amid the energy crunch exacerbated by the Ukraine conflict, and should brace for the impact, Austrian Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner warned on Tuesday.
Speaking to Die Welt, the minister evaluated the possibility of blackouts in some parts of the EU as “very high” in the near future.
“The risk of a widespread power failure has once again increased significantly as a result of the Ukraine war,” she said.
“The question is not if it happens, but when,” the minister stressed.
Tanner also claimed, without providing evidence, that for Russian President Vladimir Putin “hacker attacks” on the Western energy grid are a form of “hybrid warfare.”
“We shouldn’t pretend that this is just a theory. We have to prepare for blackouts in Austria and in Europe,” the minister stated.
According to Tanner, Austria’s military as well as other governmental services regularly conduct relevant exercises. They are also building awareness through a campaign to distribute small brochures in public places on what should be done in case of a blackout.
When asked whether such a measure could trigger “panic,” the minister dismissed the notion. “I know there’s a thin line between raising awareness with a sense of proportion and stirring up fears. But I think we’ve done quite well so far,” she said.
The specter of power outages has been haunting European countries for several months now, as the continent has been reeling under an energy crisis worsened by skyrocketing fuel prices due to the sanctions the West imposed on Russia over the Ukraine conflict.
Earlier this month, German media reported that Switzerland was considering a measure to limit the use of electric vehicles to save energy.
Around the same time, Xavier Piechaczyk, the head of French energy regulator RTE, warned that the country could face rolling blackouts due to low temperatures and high energy demand. The risk could also be exacerbated by extended maintenance halts for several nuclear reactors, Bloomberg reported last week.
In late November, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova insisted that EU policymakers have only themselves to blame for their ongoing energy crunch.