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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 September 2005, 19:24 GMT 20:24 UK
EU ministers urge oil output rise
Gordon Brown (centre) with Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker (l) and German finance minister Caio Koch-Weser
The ministers said the EU should avoid 'distortionary' tax cuts
EU finance ministers have called on oil producing countries to make sure there is enough fuel to meet global demand.

At a meeting in Manchester, they urged oil firms to invest more in production, exploration and refining capacity.

UK Chancellor Gordon Brown, who hosted the event, said the high price of fuel posed a significant risk to the European economy and to global growth.

But Mr Brown said he thought the dangers could be minimised with the appropriate policies.

Crude oil prices reached more than 70 dollars a barrel following the disruption caused to the US industry by Hurricane Katrina.

Gordon Brown
This global problem needs global solutions
Gordon Brown

UK protesters have threatened a repeat of the refinery blockades of 2000, as prices at the pump touch 1 a litre for petrol.

Mr Brown, speaking at the end of the two-day Ecofin talks, called on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries states to raise production by half a million barrels a day ahead of its 19 September meeting.

He said another 1.5m barrels a day released by Opec after Hurricane Katrina should be extended for a longer period.

Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker warned on Friday that if oil remained expensive in the fourth quarter, economic growth in the euro zone this year could be around 1.0% rather than the previously expected 1.3%.

'Energy efficiency'

Mr Brown and the other 24 EU finance ministers also called for more transparent information on oil reserves.

The Chancellor said that by continuing and strengthening talks with major oil-producing regions, conditions for investment in oil exploration and supply capacities would improve.

He said: "The EU is currently engaged in dialogues with Russia, Norway and Opec, and we have noted the message by Opec that they stand ready to supply additional oil when necessary."

Mr Brown also stressed the importance of energy efficiency, innovative technologies and the use of new energy sources.

"We are committed to developing more effective international co-operation on energy efficiency and clean technologies, especially with those countries that have relatively low energy efficiency."

Debt relief

Several other issues were also discussed at the talks.

Mr Brown said EU governments are working to plug gaps in the financial system and track down terrorist money.

"You will have regular announcements about new information that has led us to freeze the assets of terrorists," he said.

Mr Brown added that the European Union was "at one" on another British project - a proposal to wipe out debt developing countries owe to the IMF and the World Bank who will both decide on debt relief next week.

European ministers also talked about what they could do to support peace in the Middle East and help regenerate the Palestinian economy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

But Mr Brown's comments did little to placate fuel protesters, who said planned demonstrations on Wednesday would go ahead unless ministers agreed to meet them to discuss their concerns within the next two days.

Fuel Lobby spokesman Andrew Spence said it would have been "common sense" for EU ministers to have agreed fuel tax cuts to ease the burden on motorists and hauliers, rather than relying on the oil-producing states to solve their problems.

Gordon Brown calls for an increase in oil supplies

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