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Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
European press review

The European papers are all full of the growing wave of fuel protests, with many wondering how Tony Blair will handle this "contamination from France". Also making the front pages is the end of the EU sanctions against Austria.

Fuel protests: the French "contamination" spreads

"Our European neighbours suffer today from contamination from France", says the Paris-daily Le Figaro in a front-page report on the growing wave of fuel protests across the continent.

"For the first time road blocks were set up in the Netherlands and cab drivers protested in Amsterdam. Protests are spreading in Germany, and actions continue in Belgium."

Le Figaro argues: "The presence in government of Greens in a number of countries, such as Belgium, Finland, France, Germany and Italy complicates the situation ... making a joint solution uncertain."

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung thinks that the British are in the grip of a "protest movement not seen since the revolt against Margaret Thatcher's poll tax 10 years ago".

Having viewed the French protest against high petrol prices "with contempt" only a week ago, the British are now imitating their determination to resist high petrol prices.

It describes the spontaneous actions by lorry drivers and farmers to block oil refineries as "extremely effective", with panic buying by alarmed motorists helping to ensure that a third of the country's 8,000 petrol stations are without fuel.

Keen to avoid any repetition of the winter of discontent which brought down the Labour government in the late 1970s, the Blair government is counting on public sympathy for the protests evaporating.

However, the paper believes that for the time being solidarity among car drivers will hold firm.

Austria's Der Standard says the world is on the way to its "fourth oil crisis" with the surge in oil prices threatening to bring about the collapse of European countries' entire oil stocks.

The paper has little sympathy for the protests, describing curbs on environmental pollution and the greenhouse effect as "more important than the interests of a few farmers, hauliers - and even of the ordinary motorist".

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