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Thousands of trucks protest against French environmental tax
Thousands of trucks have blocked major highways across France as truck drivers step up their campaign against a key environmental tax.
The latest protest was organised by the Organisation of European Road Transporters (OTRE), a group of French truck unions.
Organisers say 4,500 trucks created 26 roadblocks across the country. France’s Interior Ministry put the number at 2,200.
The protest caused major traffic delays across the country. In the southern Aix-en-Provence department, lorries blocked the interchange between the A8 and A51 motorways, preventing the passage of trucks from Italy and Spain.
Truck drivers want François Hollande’s government to scrap the "écotaxe", an environmental levy on road freight based on the distance the trucks travel. The tax was designed to help finance infrastructure projects, including France’s rail network.
Drivers, especially those from heavy agricultural regions in Brittany in France’s northwest, say the tax will ruin their livelihoods.
The levy was due to come into force in January 2014, but has been suspended after a wave of protest in recent weeks.
“We called for the écotaxe to be scrapped, but we only go a commitment from [Agricultural Minister] Stéphane Le Foll that it won’t come into force before January 2015,” said Vicent Tardet, an OTRE spokesman.
The écotaxe was approved by the previous government under then president Nicolas Sarkozy.
A private consortium, Ecomouv, won the tender to install radars and collect the tax, which was expected to bring in more than one billion euros a year.
A judicial inquiry has been opened to investigate the contract after several Socialist MPs raised concerns about the terms being too favourable to Ecomouv.
The Minister for the Economy, Pierre Moscovici, said there are negotiations with Ecomouv to limit the cost to taxpayers.