Thousands of European Truckers Join Fuel Protests

Protests in Spain, France and Portugal

Tens of thousands of truckers in Spain, France and Portugal on June 9 stepped up protests against rising fuel prices, causing mayhem on highways and blocking border crossings.

Spain's second largest hauliers' union Fenadismer, which claims to represent 70,000 out of Spain's 380,000 truck drivers, launched an open ended strike on June 9 which it said was "peaceful" but followed "massively". As the hauliers began talks with the government, trucks jammed several main highways including at the frontier with France, according to traffic officials who also reported massive snarls in Madrid and Valencia. A Spanish truckers' group calling itself the Platform for the Defense of the Transport Sector, who say they speak for 50,000 truckers, walked off the job last week and have threatened to disrupt the opening this weekend of the International Exposition in Zaragosa.

French truckers struggling with high fuel costs staged fresh protests near the Spanish border and in the southwest. Several trucks from the southern city of Perpignan disrupted traffic at border posts, preventing trucks from crossing and causing a tailback of some 10 kilometres (six miles) on both sides of the border. Private cars were allowed through. Protestors branded banners which read: "Trucker = Unemployed," and "It's the end of our profession." Some 200 trucks were to converge on the four main motorways leading into Bordeaux on June 9 for another protest, said Jean-Pierre Morlin, president of the European trucking organisation for the Aquitaine region.

Portuguese truckers on June 9 threatened to "paralyze" the country. According to police, trucks parked at petrol pumps were stoned overnight or while they were on the road after the strike started at midnight. Many had their windscreens shattered. The strikers also blocked entrances to several factories. According to industry figures, there are some 40,000 truckers in Portugal serving an estimated 5,000 firms.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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