BRUSSELS, Belgium: European Union Labor Commissioner Nicolas Schmit has warned that a sharp rise in energy prices could cause greater scarcities of heating fuel and gasoline in Europe this winter.
In an interview with Germany's DPA news agency, he said there are already millions of Europeans who are unable to adequately heat their homes.
Although the European Commission can assist EU member countries, he stressed that national governments are primarily responsible for taking action to assist their citizens.
In September, the European Trade Union Confederation warned that more than 2.7 million people in Europe were unable to adequately heat their homes, despite the fact that they were employed.
In response, Germany slashed its tax on renewable energy by one-third last week, while France is offering $116 to low-income households to help manage rising heating costs.
The price of oil has spiked to more than $80 per barrel, while international natural gas and coal prices have reached record levels in recent weeks.
The price hikes have been blamed on the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a sharp increase in global demand for electricity to power manufacturing and subsequent supply shortages.
Some politicians have also blamed Russia, which supplies about 50 percent of the EU's natural gas imports. While Russian gas supplies are now back to normal, gas is still being withheld from EU nations.
Moscow could be blocking extra deliveries to pressure Germany into agreeing to commission the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea, which was completed last month.
The EU stressed that the rise in energy prices is likely temporary and will ease in the spring.