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More Fuel Trouble
Fuel Protests Spread Across Europe
Sept. 18 The wave of fuel price protests sweeping through Europe regained momentum today after a weekend lull, forcing already shaken governments to implement political damage control measures.
In Norway, truckers called a wildcat strike and blocked 11 oil terminals at key ports along the south and west coasts, but later called off their protest under threat of police action.
The truckers gave up the call for a strike after state oil firm Statoil asked police to stop the blockade, citing economic losses and a risk of claims from large customers if it continued.
Statoil has reported the blockade to the police and we have therefore decided to call off the demonstrations immediately, the independent Car Owners Interest Associations said in a statement today.
Norway underwent a weekend of panic especially in remote areas of the country where cars are a vital part of everyday life.
Oil companies said that Norways 3.2 million barrels per day output had been unaffected by the blockade. The nation is the second biggest exporter after Saudi Arabia.
Sweeping the Continent
Protests in Europe centered around Scandinavia but blockades sprang up at the Spanish port of Barcelona and in Slovenia. Israeli truckers threatened to stage their own demonstrations starting on Tuesday.
Spain was the focus of some tough action as fishermen in Barcelona sealed off the port and truckers laid siege to fuel distribution points in the center of the country.
In Sweden, truckers and farmers today blocked access to ferries, which are the countrys lifeline to the rest of Europe. Similar actions were taken in Denmark.
In the Netherlands, go-slow protests, which caused rush-hour misery last week, were suspended after a major demonstration Friday as truckers, taxi drivers and farmers were mulling government offers of a series of rebates and tax concessions.
The German government was scrambling to achieve unity within its own ranks ahead of a planned major boycott campaign by truckers and farmers scheduled to start Thursday.
Austria has not experienced any protests, so far even as the government is holding out the prospect of doubling the annual winter heating cost allowance for lower income families. These are only available in some provinces. The government wants to expand them nationwide.
The British Lesson
Most European governments were plunged into action after the bruising Britains Labor government received following the hard line adopted by Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Polls across the continent showed that the general public strongly supported the blockades. A weekend poll in Britain put the opposition Conservatives ahead of Labor for the first time in eight years.
As gasoline supplies in Britain gradually got back to normal, the government said it would ask oil companies to sign a joint memorandum outlining respective duties in case protesters angry about high fuel prices staged another blockade.
A task force of government ministers and oil representatives was scheduled to meet this afternoon to discuss the memorandum, which the government would like signed ahead of planned legislation obliging oil companies to maintain fuel deliveries at all times.
This would put them on the same footing as essential services like gas and water.
It will formalize what the responsibilities were on the government should there be a repeat of things, and what the responsibilities were on the oil companies, Blairs spokesman said.
Legislation would not be introduced before late November, he indicated. We want to legislate quickly, because a structural weakness has been shown in the events of last week, he said.
But we cant have policy dictated to usthe government is not conducting its business or working towards an arbitrary 60 day deadline that has been given to us.
Ireland Joins Fray
Irish fishermen today said they would tie up their boats in ports around the country in a 24-hour protest over high fuel prices.
Up to 90 percent of the countrys fishing fleet is expected to join the 24-hour stoppage, scheduled to begin at midday on Tuesday, said a spokesman for Irelands fishermens organizations.
Were asking our members in various key ports to join what is a token protest at fuel prices, said Joey Murrin, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermens Organization in the northwestern county of Donegal.
High fuel prices had hit the fishing industry hardest, causing losses estimated at $16.3 million in the first eight months of the year, he said.
Were here and were in trouble. If this situation continues well be tying up our boats permanently, he added.
ABCNEWS.com's Sue Masterman, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 19, 2000
I plead ignorance on this topic, other than what I've read or heard on the news. But I have to wonder - How much of the high fuel prices are the result of corporate manipulation of the marketplace? How much is the WTO?
-- jumpoffjoe (email@example.com), September 19, 2000.