BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romanian truck drivers and regulators reached an agreement on Thursday to reduce planned insurance rates that truckers say would have crippled their industry, ending a day of nationwide protests.
Augustin Hagiu, a transport protest leader, and the Financial Supervisory Authority said they agreed to cap annual rates at 7,500 lei ($1,900), a reduction of more than 40 percent from the previously planned hike.
Hundreds of trucks, taxis and other commercial vehicles blocked a major square in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, for hours to protest the planned higher rates. Police reported traffic congestion around other Romanian cities as truck drivers drove slowly to protest against rates they said would be higher than in neighboring countries.
About 400 protesters had parked their vehicles outside the government offices in Bucharest's central Victory Square, snarling traffic in the city. They honked their horns and yelled, "We won't leave!"
"The rates are too high and this is giving us big problems competing with other countries such as Poland," said Viorel Bosoi, who has a transportation firm and has worked 23 years in the business. He told The Associated Press that the proposed insurance rates for big trucks would have been about nine times higher than two years ago.
Police called in reinforcements to guard the offices where Romania's prime minister and other top officials work.
At one point, drivers tried to break through police lines to place a coffin and a wreath in front of the offices to symbolize the death of the transportation industry.
The government said Thursday it was not its job to resolve disputes between the truckers and state insurers, and told protesters to take their demands to the relevant agencies.
Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos issued an emergency decree Wednesday to temporarily freeze insurance rates, but that failed to appease the protesters.