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The BBC's Justin Webb
"Public anger about fuel prices is as strong as ever"
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The BBC's Jim Fish
"Only the French government has made direct concessions"
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The BBC's Flora Botsford reports
"They chose Barcelona's ring road to stage their protest"
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Friday, 15 September, 2000, 21:10 GMT 22:10 UK
Europe fuel crisis escalates
bremen
German lorry drivers caused chaos in Bremen
Protesters in several more countries have joined Europe-wide demonstrations over high fuel prices, with Spain's second-largest city, Barcelona, being brought to a standstill.

In Germany, some 200 trucks, taxis and tractors blockaded the centre of the northern city of Bremen.

A cyclist celebrates the lack of traffic on Barcelona's roads
A cyclist celebrates the lack of traffic on Barcelona's roads
There were similar protests in Poland by drivers using go-slow tactics in major cities.

Motorists in Ireland suffered widespread disruption on roads across the country, as convoys of slow-moving trucks delayed traffic.

In Italy, the government and unions reached an agreement to reduce fuel prices, heading off a series of planned protests by drivers.

Widespread sympathy

Polish truckers also began protesting, with columns of slow-moving trucks snarling traffic in several larger cities. But police said the action was limited and failed to clog traffic.

Barcelona was one of the worst-hit cities on Friday, with vehicles tailing back 7km.

Truckers revived their four-day protests in the German town of Bremen
Truckers revived their four-day protests in the German town of Bremen
There is widespread sympathy in Spain for the workers who are suffering most from recent increases in petrol prices. Even drivers who were not protesting took the disruption in good spirits.

Farmers took similar action in the south-western town of Merida.

Others planned to picket the site of this weekend's Spanish-German summit in the city of Segovia, in central Spain, between Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Protests have also taken place in:

  • The Netherlands: In the latest and largest protests, truckers stopped traffic across the country and planned to display their anger at the heart of the government, with hundreds of trucks expected to converge on The Hague.

  • Hungary: Hauliers threaten "radical" protests after the Hungarian oil and gas company, MOL, said it would raise wholesale gasoline prices by 2.7% and diesel prices by 5.4%.

More protests are planned in Sweden and Norway.

Jan Goeransson, a spokesman for the Federation of Southern Hauliers, said ferry departures from the ports of Malmo, Trelleborg, Helsingborg and Gothenburg would be badly hit on Saturday.

Norwegian truckers are planning to blockade five of the country's main oil terminals from Monday.

Belgium and the UK are struggling to recover from days of fuel blockades, after protests were called off on Thursday.

Czech hauliers called off road blockades planned for Friday after Prime Minister Milos. Zeman offered to discuss their concerns over high fuel prices.

Truckers in Barcelona
Barcelona was one of the worst hit cities
And in the UK, drivers were preparing to get back on the road on Friday as fuel returned to filling stations with the lifting of week-long pickets and protests at oil refineries over high prices.

Across Europe, government taxes make up the bulk of what drivers pay at the pump and add to the pain of crude oil prices, still at their highest level in a decade.

'Raw deal'

Taxes add nearly 50% to the price of a litre of petrol in Spain compared with nearly 70% in Britain and near the bottom of the table within the European Union.

Nonetheless, farmers in particular feel they are getting a raw deal. The lower grade petrol they use is among the most expensive in the EU.

In Germany, opposition politicians launched a parliamentary bid to cut fuel taxes.

But Mr Schroeder's centre-left government has so far resisted demands to suspend so-called "eco-taxes," which it started imposing last year on polluting fuels.

In Ireland, the government has promised action in December's budget, but the hauliers say there will be more protests unless something is done much sooner.

Irish fuel prices are lower than those in the UK but they have been rising at a rate which haulage firms say will put them out of business.

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See also:

15 Sep 00 | UK
Fuel supplies seep through
15 Sep 00 | Middle East
Gulf tension fuels oil price rise
13 Sep 00 | Europe
Bruxellois find their feet
13 Sep 00 | Europe
German fuel row turns political
12 Sep 00 | Europe
In pictures: Going nowhere fast
11 Sep 00 | Europe
France looks for energy savings
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