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Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 20:53 GMT 21:53 UK
German fuel row turns political
German Truckers on French border
Protests are set to continue with political support
By Peter Morgan in Berlin

In Germany the row over fuel taxes has provoked more confrontation in parliament than on the streets.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has refused point-blank to reduce fuel taxes, and has accused the opposition Christian Democratic Union of playing with fire by lending their support to protesters.

German farmers
German farmers threaten to 'gatecrash' political meetings
The CDU plans to take its opposition to the current levels of fuel tax onto the streets of Berlin on Thursday, distributing bumper stickers and posters demanding cheaper petrol.

Mr Schroeder would have very little room to compromise even if he wanted to.

His Social Democratic Party rules governs in alliance with the Green Party which sees fuel taxes as an vital means of limiting oil consumption.

Increased fuel taxes also represent a crucial part of a complex reform package aimed at reducing the levels of personal and company tax in Germany.

'Stop the Rip Off'

There have been sporadic protests in Germany. Truck drivers blocked streets in Schwerin, north-west of Berlin on Wednesday, ahead of a visit to the town by the chancellor.

In Munich a couple of dozen tractors and trucks reduced traffic to a crawl, while demonstrators waved banners demanding that the government "Stop The Rip Off".

The German Federation of Freight Transporters have called for a national day of action towards the end of the month.

The plan is that lorries should bring motorways to a near standstill in a four-hour protest.

The fuel tax row has succeeded in making some headlines, and provoking a lively debate in Germany.

But so far no one has been made to suffer anything more than minor inconvenience.

But as British Prime Minister Tony Blair has found to his cost, events can change very rapidly, in a modern economy that critically depends upon an uninterupted flow of fuel.

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