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French Fishermen Block Chunnel

August 31, 2000

PARIS (AP) _ Angry fishermen protesting the rising cost of fuel blocked the Channel Tunnel terminal on Thursday, halting most auto traffic to Britain, while others jammed ports throughout France and took their demands to the government.

About 20 fishermen lined up cars to form a picket line at the terminal at Coquelles, near the northern port city of Calais, leaving hundreds of tourist buses and other vehicles unable to board the trains that pass under the Channel.

The protests, which also have affected ferry traffic across the Channel, left many British travelers fuming.

``I have been queuing 24 hours, and it’s just getting stupid,″ Martina Patel, 27, of Balham, south London, told Britain’s Press Association. ``Tempers are fraying and people are losing control.″

Fishermen, who have been protesting for more than a week, continued to block the ferry in Calais and staged protests in other northern ports. They also kept up their occupation of ports from the Mediterranean city of Marseille to Bayonne near the Spanish border to the Normandy city of Le Havre.

In the city of Perigueux in the southwest, truck drivers, farmers and taxis added their voices to the fuel protests, stopping traffic at the principal entrances to the city.

A delegation of fishermen was due to meet Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany to press demands to cut the price of their fuel nearly in half, from about 30 cents a liter to 17 cents. The low-grade fuel fishermen use to power their boats has risen in price from a low of less than 10 cents per liter, and fishermen say the added cost has made it harder for them to eke out a living.

Glavany said Thursday that he was open to negotiations.

``We’re moving in the direction they want, evidently, because what they’re asking for has a basis,″ Glavany told France-2 television.

Later Thursday, Finance Minister Laurent Fabius was likely to announce a cut in fuel tax as part of what he has said would be a sweeping series of tax cuts. Fishermen’s fuel is not taxed, but the measures would ease prices for many others affected by rising gasoline costs.

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