24th Sep 2023

Power cut stops work at most EU buildings

A power cut caused by a fire in an underground electrical facility interrupted work in the main EU buildings in Brussels on Monday (19 September).

Electricity went off in the EU Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament as well as residential properties in the area at around 2pm local time, causing lifts to stop, computers to go blank and lights to go out.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Lights went off in the EU quarter in Brussels after a fire under a garden beside the EU parliament, pictured bottom-centre (Photo: Google Earth)

The parliament was the most seriously affected - a handful of officials were stuck in lifts for up to 30 minutes and all MEPs and staff were told to go home for the day.

"It was not evacuated in the sense of an emergency but we asked people to go home because normal activity is impossible. People could go back to their offices to get their coats and so on. It was very calm", spokesman Jaime Duch said.

In the commission, phones kept working but lifts, lights and computers went off. Emergency lighting in fire escapes and a blackout-proof email system - called Noah - for certain staff with smartphones kicked in.

The commission told staff to go home at 4.30pm. But a few minutes later, the lights went on, meaning the hour's extra leave was cancelled. Commission spokesman Antony Gravili told EUobserver: "People can get back to work now, it's still just 4:30." It is unclear how many staff made the u-turn back to their desks.

The EU Council, which has a greater number of back-up generators due to its work with EU security and defence missions, saw the least disruption.

"Everybody is still here ... It's like the good old times. I am rejoicing in the pleasure of working on paper in the beautiful sunlight streaming through my window," one Council official remarked.

Iris Fostiez, a spokeswoman for Sibelga, the Belgian firm that supplies electricity in the EU district, said the fault was caused by a fire in a transformer station situated below the gardens of the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria to the European Union.

"There was a lot of smoke, and because it is an underground chamber, it was hard to get the smoke out. The firemen had to get special breathing and ventilation equipment so that the technicians could do their work", she explained.

The cause of the fire is unknown but Sibelga does not suspect foul play.

Fire breaks out in EU commission building

UPDATED 19.30 CET A fire broke out in the EU commission's headquarters in Brussels on Monday (18 May), prompting a total evacuation of the premises, with firefighters struggling for hours to extinguish flames in the building's electrical shaft.

EU parliament robbery was 'inside job,' officials say

Gun-wielding thieves have struck the European Parliament again, the third such attack in two years, this time hitting the post office. Individuals close to the investigation say they are "convinced" it is an inside job.


Spain's EU-language bid and UN summit This WEEK

While the heads of EU institutions are in New York for the UN high level meeting, Spain's EU presidency will try to convince ministers to make Catalan, Basque, and Galician official EU languages.

Latest News

  1. Europe's energy strategy: A tale of competing priorities
  2. Why Greek state workers are protesting new labour law
  3. Gloves off, as Polish ruling party fights for power
  4. Here's the headline of every op-ed imploring something to stop
  5. Report: Tax richest 0.5%, raise €213bn for EU coffers
  6. EU aid for Africa risks violating spending rules, Oxfam says
  7. Activists push €40bn fossil subsidies into Dutch-election spotlight
  8. Europe must Trump-proof its Ukraine arms supplies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  2. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  3. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  4. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us