Two die in European truck drivers` fuel price protest

Two truck drivers were killed in fuel price protest actions in Spain and Portugal last week as governments across Europe struggle to contain strikes by thousands of truckers, fishermen and railway workers over soaring fuel prices. In Portugal, a picketing trucker died as he tried to stop a truck on a road north of the capital city, Lisbon. Truck drivers’ unions Fenadismer and Confedetrans suspended strike negotiations with the Spanish government Tuesday after a truck driver was run over and killed by a van as he picketed in the southern city of Granada.

Spanish police accompanied petrol tankers into the city of Barcelona yesterday on the second day of the strike that has left about half the petrol stations in Barcelona without fuel.

The strike has caused food and fuel shortages across Spain and long lines of traffic at the Spanish-French border. Slow-moving trucks blocked all roads entering the Spanish capital of Madrid on Tuesday.

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Demonstrators are demanding cuts in fuel taxes, but the Spanish government has turned down this proposal.

Transport Minister Magdalena Alvarez said an agreement reached last night with non-striking truckers’ unions would be presented on Wednesday to the two unions that called the strike, Fenadismer and Confedetrans.

In recent months, oil prices have skyrocketed abruptly, reaching their highest level, in real terms, since the end of the 1970s.

The prices of liquid fuel for household purposes have risen by 35.2 percent and those of fuel for transport have increased by 12.7 percent as compared to the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices average of 3.6 percent.

The current surge in oil prices is largely the result of a major structural shift in oil supply and demand in the global economy, the European Commission said today, as ‘oil supply is struggling to keep pace with rising global demand, especially in China and India.’

The hike in production costs for many sectors due to soaring fuel prices is causing widespread concern across the European Union, and in response the Commission released a draft set of proposals today to mitigate the effects of rising global fuel prices.

These proposals will be formalized in a forthcoming communication to be discussed at the European Council on June 19-20 in conjunction with the recent Commission communication on rising food prices.

The Commission will recommend that the European Council confirm its determination to adopt legally binding measures to give effect to its 2020 targets for renewables, biofuels and greenhouse gas reductions by the end of 2008, which the Commission says are essential to improve energy efficiency and the diversification of the EU energy supply.

In March 2007, European heads of state endorsed a plan proposed by the Commission that calls for a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency, a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20 percent share of renewables in overall EU energy consumption by 2020, and a 10 percent biofuel component in vehicle fuel by 2020.

Today 8.5 percent of energy used in Europe is renewable. To achieve a 20 percent share by 2020 will require major efforts across all sectors of the economy and by all member states, the Commission says.

The Commission also proposed today that businesses and private households step up their drive for energy efficiency so that quicker and greater savings be achieved.

President Jose Manuel Barroso said, ‘Rising fuel prices are squeezing the purchasing power of all EU citizens, with the strongest impact on the lowest income families in Europe. I believe that through a structured response at the EU level – possibly combined with targeted social policy measures by member states – we can meet the challenge.’

‘At the heart of our approach is the full implementation of the Commission’s energy and climate change proposals including increased energy diversification, security of energy supply and energy efficiency. We need to save energy, and to diversify the sources of supply,’ said Barroso.

‘If we act swiftly and decisively, we can reduce the vulnerability of our citizens and our businesses, and support both our quality of life and our economic competitiveness,’ he said. ‘I look forward to discussing this with member states in the European Council next week.’

The Commission supports the organization of a global summit on oil markets between main oil producing and consuming countries and strengthening of existing regional and bilateral dialogues in order to achieve better market access and transparency.

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