European Union finance ministers are meeting to discuss the economic fallout from relentless fuel price rises, and to debate what measures to take to pacify voters and industry.
The two-day gathering in the English city of Manchester comes amid fears that the eurozone’s tentative economic recovery could be hit by the trend. The worry is that bigger fuel bills will dent confidence, spur inflation and reduce consumer spending. As the meeting got underway, oil prices rose for the second day running. Households and business are being hurt by the increases which come as oil companies make record profits. Anger is rising and there are mounting threats from protesters that refineries will be blockaded to put pressure on governments to intervene. The French finance minister has already indicated that he is ready to take action. Thierry Breton says he may be forced to slap a tax on oil companies to help ease the pain for those struggling with surging heating and petrol bills. Total, one of the world’s oil giants, made profits of about 1.5 million euros per hour in the first six months of the year. Home-heating fuel, meanwhile, is in many places 30 per cent more expensive than a year ago.