Italian taxi drivers continue to protest and fear new competition

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ROME (AP) — Hundreds of taxi drivers in Italy on Wednesday left their cars unused for a second day to protest Italian government plans to allow more competition, including ride-sharing services.

A handful of drivers chained themselves to protest in the square outside Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office on Tuesday, and they were still chained there on Wednesday as the savage work stoppage continued.

Nearby, on a main street and not far from Rome’s central square, Piazza Venezia, hundreds of drivers from Rome and Naples stood shoulder to shoulder and loudly protested. A few protesters set off colored smoke flares to draw attention. Their cars were parked elsewhere in the Italian capital.

The drivers have pledged to keep the protests going for at least one more day if needed as they air their grievances.

In the northern city of Turin, more than 200 drivers parked their taxis in a main square during a similar protest, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

In Milan, Italy’s financial capital, taxi drivers have scheduled a meeting later on Wednesday to decide on their protest strategy.

Drivers oppose the prospect of liberalizing taxi services in Italy to include ride-sharing operators like Uber. Yet Italy is facing insistence from the European Union to allow greater competition in transport as well as in other sectors.

Draghi is determined to push ahead with reforms to open up Italy’s economy as part of efforts to receive billions of euros in pandemic recovery funds from the EU.

A bill dealing with competition in the taxi sector was to be debated Thursday in a parliamentary committee.

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