French transport protests may disrupt Euros

  • 06/06/2016
French president Francois Hollande (AAP)
French president Francois Hollande (AAP)

President Francois Hollande says it would be incomprehensible if transport strikes were to disrupt the Euro 2016 football tournament that opens in France on Friday, raising pressure on the militant CGT union to call off the action.

Hollande spoke in a radio interview on Sunday as an opinion poll showed a majority of French people now oppose the wave of nationwide protests against planned labour law reforms that has disrupted fuel supplies and transport services in recent weeks.

Finance Minister Michel Sapin said the stoppages and street demonstrations, which have hit rail services, power stations, oil refineries, ports and waste treatment plans, were having no significant impact on the economy.

But they have tarnished France's image with scenes of barricades and picket-line violence just as the eyes of Europe are on the host country of the Euro 2016.

"No one would understand it if trains and planes -- I'm thinking of the Air France pilots' dispute -- were to prevent fans travelling around easily, even if the competition itself has nothing to fear," Hollande said on France Inter radio.

Rail services have been roughly halved since the CGT and its allies began an open-ended strike last Wednesday. A new round of talks on a reorganisation on working time are due to be held at the SNCF state railway on Monday.

Air France pilots have announced plans to strike from Saturday, the second day of the Euros, in a separate dispute over pay cuts.

The Socialist president acknowledged a heightened threat of terrorism during the football tournament but said France was taking all possible measures to keep fans safe. Some 130 people were killed in gun and bomb attacks by Islamic State militants in Paris last November.

Hollande said he had decided to maintain the planned fan zones where tens of thousands of spectators without match tickets can gather to watch games on giant screens. The biggest planned zone is next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Some security officials and commentators have warned the enclosures and queues of fans waiting to enter them could be targets for potential attackers, stretching the resources of police and security firms in charge of protection.