Blockades not to take place

Despite mass protests and blockades of roads, petrol stations and oil refineries across Western Europe this week, Czech drivers seemed to have remained calm and put up with ever-higher fuel prices. However, they were eventually moved to action, but their plans were rather short-lived. Vladimir Tax has the details:

One of the Czech associations of truck drivers announced they would organize road blockades around all major Czech cities, calling for the government to guarantee the maximum diesel price of 26 CZK, or 1.5 Deutsch marks. There have also been voices calling for a reduction of the consumer tax on fuel. The blockade was announced for Friday, from 3 to 9 p.m., when traffic is heaviest in this country.

The threat eventually did bear fruit. Prime Minister Milos Zeman promised to meet with union representatives to discuss their demands. Yet, the drivers say the planned protest blockades have just been put off, not called off.

How realistic are their demands? Economic analyst Radomir Jac from Commerzbank points out that the VAT and consumer tax imposed on automotive fuels make up some 50 percent of the final price. However, he is rather sceptical as to the prospect of the government and Parliament approving a tax reduction. Meanwhile, the average price for one liter of petrol has now increased to 30 crowns 90, which is about 1.7 DM, and experts predict that by the end of the year, the price could rise to 34 crowns or 2 deutsch marks. The prediction is in line with Thursday's warning by OPEC president Ali Rodrigueze that oil price could reach as much as 40 dollars for barrel by the end of this year.

Whether or not Czech truck drivers will join their Western colleagues and start pushing for lower prices by road blockades, will be decided after their meeting with Prime Minister Zeman on Monday.

Now when Austrians have been blockading Czech border crossing because of the Temelin nuclear power station, and anti-globalisation activists threaten to do the same because Czech authorities refused to let some of them enter the country, Czech motorists might be facing serious difficulties next week.