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Power blackouts strike Europe

Calls for a European energy authority, following power cuts that plunged much of western Europe into darkness last week, have been dismissed as unattainable by energy experts.

Protectionism from countries such as France, whose energy market has still not been liberalised, was held up as a major stumbling block.

Energy giant Eon admitted responsibility for last Saturday's power cuts across France, Belgium, Italy and Spain when a power line spanning the River Ems in Germany was switched off to let a ship pass.

The move coincided with the first cold snap of the winter, which triggering a surge in demand.

Italian prime minister Romano Prodi claimed that this would not have happened under a properly regulated grid.

Former ICE energy board chairman David Anderson said that Prodi's comments came as no surprise. Italy, like much of mainland Europe, imports much of its electricity and relies on crossborder trading.

This leaves it dependent on power lines it does not regulate. But Anderson said that countries were unlikely to give up control of their own grid.

'Protectionism policies will prevent a European authority working, ' he said.

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