As French Strikes Continue, Country Runs Out Of Gas
As the ongoing strikes in France against austerity continue, and see increasingly more participation, the latest development is all too familiar to all those who travelled through Athens in the summer: huge lines for gas. About 1,000 gas stations across France have run out of fuel because
strikers had blocked access to oil refineries and depots, Alexandre de
Benoist, a Union of Independent Oil Importers official, told CNN on
Monday. It gets worse: per the AP, the head of France's petroleum industry body said fuel reserves were "enough to keep us going for a few weeks." Jean-Louis Schilansky, president of the Petrol Industries Association, warned however that if the strikers continue to block fuel depots and if the nation's truckers join the movement, "then we will have a very big problem." Sure enough, truckers did join the fray on Monday, staging organized slowdowns aimed at snarling highway traffic. French TV showed images of cars and trucks on a "Snail Operation," driving at a snail's pace along the main highway between Paris and the northern city of Lille, with red union flags waving out the windows. Will Europe's little experiment with Austerity be doomed, as the continent realizes that there is no solution to the imminent insolvency of the PIIGS and soon everyone else, and should just enjoy it last months and days of the existing status quo?
More from CNN on why this is not going to end any time soon:
French workers began their latest round of strikes a week ago, protesting against government plans to raise the retirement age and institute other pension reforms. The government, which contends that France can no longer afford the earlier retirement payments, has shown no sign of backing down. Analysts say pension reform will likely be a defining moment in the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy.
Blasting Sarkozy during a CNN interview Saturday, Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe accused the French president of "arrogance." But Sarkozy insists the changes are needed because rising life expectancy increases the financial burden on the pension system.
A government crisis coordination task force met for the first time Monday to discuss the fuel situation, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior said. The group, to be led by Interior Minister Brice Hortefeaux, will aim to "coordinate the action of different state departments to ensure a continuous fuel supply."
Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Sunday night he would "not let the French economy be choked by a blockade of fuel.
"There will not be a shortage because we are going to make the necessary decisions ... to ensure that this country is not blocked," he said on TF1 television.
Well that should surely be welcome relief to all those who are waiting to gas up for hours.
Also, fuel may end up being the least of the country's concerns:
Meanwhile, French youth who have rallied to the cause burned tires and set up blockades Monday outside some high schools in Paris and nearby suburbs.
Students from Lycee Joliot Curie in the Paris suburb of Nanterre tried to blockade their school, with about 100 of them facing off against police.