Tourists were stranded for a time on Thursday because of the lack of transport.

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The cabinet yesterday approved a decree by which licensed taxis can be the only form of discretionary transport which can pick up clients on the public highway and so also in locations such as the airports.

The transport minister, Marc Pons, explained that the decree had been scheduled to be approved yesterday and that its content was communicated to members of the Balearic Transport Council on Monday, so therefore before the incidents at Palma airport on Thursday.

Pons said that the government will devote all its efforts and resources towards ending "intrusion" by unlicensed operators. In addition to dealing with the minibus services that the taxi drivers branded "pirates" on Thursday, the decree is also aimed at pirate taxi services, i.e. ones without a licence. As had previously been announced, there are to be fines of between 6,000 and 12,000 euros for any pirate taxi service that is advertised on the internet.

The minister stressed that the decree will give inspectors the legal force to act. Until now, there has been a regulatory vacuum. He added that, as from next week, there will be an inspection plan, designed to prevent a repeat of Thursday evening. No one will be tempted to go beyond the law, he said, and the government will back his words up by having a team of three inspectors and four assistants based at Palma airport.

The decree, noted Pons, is "the result of months of work" and is partly the consequence of the dispute with taxi drivers that arose after the announcement of bus services from the airport to resorts.

At the airport yesterday, taxi drivers were complaining that the minibuses were still operating and that there weren't police. The absence of police, the drivers have argued, has led to the proliferation of the "pirates". They add that Aena pays Palma town hall some 12 million euros a year property tax, and yet the town hall doesn't have a local police service at the airport. For its part, the town hall did say at the meeting on Thursday night that police will be returning to the airport.

The taxi drivers, in the meantime, have formed "control groups" in order to try and prevent things getting out of hand as they did on Thursday. It has emerged that what really brought things to a head was that one of the minibuses was in the line of taxis at the rank.

The taxi drivers were hopeful that the government's decree will be posted on the Official Bulletin today, which indicates that law is in force, and that this will stop the "pirates" acting with impunity.

Business reaction to what happened on Thursday has been critical of the taxi drivers. The Balearic Transport Federation accepted that the drivers' protest could have been damaging for the tourism image but insisted that the law has to be complied with. The travel agencies' association was more condemnatory; the taxi drivers' action was pathetic. The hoteliers' federation, which while accepting the need to prevent unfair competition, said that nothing can be allowed to happen which damages the island's image.