There has been a wave of protests at the continual price hikes in the cost of petrol, despite the package of measures approved by the government to liberalise the fuel sector, which are due to come into force next month. They include the removal of obstacles to increasing the number of petrol stations, and an increase in the distribution capacity of CLH, which owns the network of oil pipes. Minister Rodrigo Rato said that an effort will be made to cut prices by promoting sales in hypermarkets and similar and giving greater facilities to cooperatives. The plan consists of increasing the number of petrol sales points so that it reaches the European Union (EU) average within four years. Spain has 0.35 petrol stations for every 1'000 vehicles, one of the lowest ratios in the EU. Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar attributed the increase in prices to the high cost of crude oil which has been aggravated by a loss in value of the euro. Regarding suspicions of price fixing, Aznar said that the matter was being looked into. José Maria Cuevas, head of the business federation CEOE, called on the government to modify the fiscal system applied to fuels. The consumer union UCE criticised the constant increases and called on consumers to join in the boycott planned for Sunday May 28, under the slogan A Petrol Free Day. This protest is held on the last Sunday of every month.


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