By Humphrey Carter

THE Balearic authorities are starting to get concerned about the rising costs of fuel and the transport protests which are starting to spread and escalate across Spain.

Balearic Presidential Secretary, Albert Moragues, said yesterday that the government is monitoring the protests on the mainland carefully because Monday's national transport strike could have seriously negative consequences for the islands.

The Balearic transport sector has yet to decide on whether it is going to back the strike or not but, none the less, Moragues said “transport is a vital lifeline for us here in the islands and if action is not taken, the situation could become very grave indeed and there is little the local government can do because the dispute is with central government,” he said. “What is clear is that the transport sector can hardly cope any longer with the continual increases in the cost of fuel,” Moragues said. “It is in everybody's interests that the government provides an acceptable solution,” he added.

Moragues believes that Madrid and all the other European governments need to be working together to reach a solution to a problem which the whole of Europe is now struggling to confront.

Whether the Balearic transport sector backs the strike or nor is, to a certain extent, irrelevant because if no goods arrive at the ports, there is going to be significantly less merchandise to distribute round the islands.

Much of the Balearics's primary materials are imported and prolonged strike action and rolling stoppages by the transport sector on the mainland will throw up some serious problems for the region.

In Ibiza, for example, the president of the Transport Association, Joan Bufi, warned yesterday that unless fuel prices are capped and reduced, at least a dozen companies will be forced to close this summer.