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Spanish lorry drivers block border. France and Portugal raise fears of food and petrol shortages: impact of Iraq War


By WcP.System.Thinker - Posted on 10 June 2008

tens of thousands of Spanish truckers on indefinite strike over soaring fuel costs that could bring the country to a standstill

(quote)

Spanish lorry drivers blocked the border with France to all goods traffic yesterday as fuel-price protests in Spain, France and Portugal raised fears of food and petrol shortages. Spanish and Portuguese hauliers began indefinite strikes, and queues of lorries up to five miles long formed on the French side of the border after Spanish picketers smashed the windscreens of foreign goods drivers who tried to enter Spain. French and Spanish hauliers also staged go-slow protests, causing 20-mile tailbacks in Bordeaux, France, and 15 miles or more around Madrid and Barcelona. The hauliers were all demanding action to offset the effect of oil prices, now at record highs of over $139 per barrel.

Spaniards fearing fuel shortages queued to fill their tanks and 40 per cent of petrol stations ran out of supplies in Spain's hardest-hit region, Catalonia. Long queues formed at Spanish and Portuguese supermarkets after hauliers said they could run out of fresh food in days. "No-one is earning enough money to eat any more: not the truckers, not the fishermen, nobody, and someone has to find a solution," said Jaime Diaz, the president of Spain's national road transport confederation. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, postponed a major speech on the economy to grapple with the first big strike to hit Spain during its worst economic slowdown in 15 years. But his Socialist government said there would be no electricity or petrol shortages as drivers picketed distribution centres and called for a minimum haulage tariff to counter a 35 per cent rise in fuel costs over the past 12 months.

Spanish truck driver strike could eventually involve up to 300,000 vehicles across Spain

In Portugal, one group of drivers threatened to block the main roads running south to the Algarve tourist region to prevent goods reaching the area. Yesterday, a French military official said the soaring fuel prices had forced the French navy to cancel three of its scheduled summer missions. Pascal Subtil, a spokesman for the navy, said missions "that were the least crucial" were cut.

Exacerbating French problems, striking workers at the country's largest oil terminal of Fos-Lavera yesterday entered their third day of action, stepping up pressure on the government over its plan to privatise state-run ports. The strike at the Fos-Lavera in the southern port of Marseille blocked 29 oil tankers from leaving or entering the hub.

blockade: Spanish truck drivers near border with France

However, few places in Europe are suffering more than Spain, the eurozone's fourth largest economy, where fuel costs have soared as recession looms. Spanish consumer demand is shrivelling as the end of a decade-long housing boom coincides with the global credit crunch and soaring inflation. Mr Zapatero on Saturday blamed the European Central Bank for a recent jump in oil prices and market interest rates, saying its president, Jean- Claude Trichet, had to show more prudence. Mr Zapatero has offered hauliers emergency credit and early retirement incentives. But he refuses to set minimum tariffs, saying hauliers have to adapt to fierce competition in Spain and Europe.

Small Spanish hauliers are worst hit. Strike leaders have dismissed government proposals and want price guarantees to stop large firms undercutting them. Spain's development ministry said it would present measures today to take the sting out of fuel price rises, and saw a chance of reaching a deal with the hauliers by midweek.

(unquote)

Images courtesy of AFP/Raymond Roig, EPA/Javier Etxezarreta, and EPA/Javier Lizon

Original Source: Scotsman

In Photos: Spain Fuel Transport Strike

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