BBC News - 12 Sep 00

Prof. Robert B. Laughlin
Department of Physics
Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305
(Copied 22 Jan 09)

Fuel Protests Build Across Europe

BBC News, Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 05:37 GMT UK

Two-thirds of Britain's refineries have been blocked.
Taxi drivers in Liverpool, England, blockingb rush-hour traffic. Lorry drivers parked in front of the Norwegian parliament.
Commuters in Brussels seek alternative means of transport.

Protests over high fuel prices have been gathering momentum across western Europe.

Lorry drivers, farmers, and other fuel users have blocked oil installations and disrupted traffic in towns in Germany, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Although nearly all the blockades which crippled France last week have now been lifted, elsewhere protesters have been encouraged by the concessions their French counterparts won.

The UK Government has been given authority to take emergency powers to ensure fuel distribution, after the blockade and panic-buying by motorists led to many petrol stations running dry.


Lorry drivers and farmers in Britain have blocked off six refineries, causing thousands of filling stations to run out of fuel. The move prompted motorists to start stockpiling fuel.

In Belgium, lorry drivers brought traffic in Brussels to a standstill while in Germany, they threatened to disrupt the transport network from Thursday if the government did not offer relief from fuel costs.

Irish drivers also threatened to take action on Friday if a demand for a 20% cut in diesel duty was not met.

French example

France has called for a meeting of European transport ministers to discuss the possibility of harmonising fuel prices and taxes.

The French authorities are working on a comprehensive plan to save energy in response to the surge in world oil prices.

It is likely to take another week for fuel supplies to get fully back to normal in the country after days of crippling protests.

However, the UK and German Governments said they would not follow the French lead and concede to demands for lower fuel taxes.

Brussels standstill

The French-style protest in Belgium saw dozens of lorry drivers block the centre of Brussels with parked vehicles, hampering access to government and European Union offices.

The country's main refinery at Fleecy was also blocked.

Talks with transport officials collapsed on Monday after drivers walked out of a meeting with Transport Minister Isabelle Durance.

The protests have forced thousands of commuters to take detours to work or use public transport.

The hauliers say a 50% rise in the cost of diesel fuel since the beginning of 1999 is threatening profitability.

Italians threaten strike

In Germany, lorry drivers and farmers have ignored the country's strict laws against unauthorised strike action.

They have already blocked traffic in two towns and threaten next to block motorways calling for an end to environmental taxes.

But the German Transport Minister, Reinhard Klimmt, said the government would not back track on the "ecology tax".

Italian lorry drivers are also threatening to strike and a refinery in Sicily is under blockade.

Transport companies are joining forces with farmers, fishermen and other groups for a day of action on Friday.

Hard-pressed industries everywhere complain the three-fold increase in crude oil prices has brought huge windfall profits to governments.