For members


Reader question: Will pension strikes affect fuel supplies in France?

Protests against government reforms include walkouts and pickets at France’s oil refineries - but does that mean we’re about to see shortages at the petrol pumps as we did in October?

Reader question: Will pension strikes affect fuel supplies in France?
Strikers at an oil refinery. (Photo by Damien Meyer / AFP)

The third wave of strikes and protests over the government’s planned pension reforms hit France this week – and unions have threatened further action in the coming days and weeks.

Refinery workers walked out for 48 hours in January and again for 72 hours on February 6th, in a strike planned to coincide with the latest protests.

On Wednesday morning, workers continued the 72-hour protest, and the CGT union representing refinery workers said they counted high levels of strike participation among morning shift workers – 100 percent at the Flanders refinery in the north, 80 percent at the refinery in Donges in Loire-Atlantique, 70 percent at the refinery of Feyzin in Rhone, and 56 percent at the refinery in Normandy.

Éric Sellini, CGT union representative with TotalÉnergies told AFP on Wednesday that there would be a meeting with all “CGT unions representing workers in the oil industry” on Thursday to decide whether to extend strike action to other related sectors.

Up until now, producers have been confident there will be no supply issues as a result of these strikes and have reassured drivers that stocks are full.

But industry experts have warned that problems could lie ahead if strike action and blockades are stepped up but also if drivers resort to panic-buying.

While shipments were briefly interrupted during January’s two-day walkout, there was no impact on services at fuel pumps, even though unions registered high strike participation levels. 

“Stocks at service stations are full, [and] French depots are full,” Francis Pousse, president of service stations and new energies at Mobilians, told BFMTV at the time, as he warned that any dash to the pumps – even for “precautionary purchases” – may create unnecessary problems.

“The fact of rushing to the pump will constrain stocks more quickly and that’s when we will have difficulties,” he said.

Patrick Pouyanné, the boss at Total Energies had a similar message.

“Don’t panic, the stocks are full, the service stations are well supplied,” he told Sud Ouest newspaper.

“Some want to make precautionary purchases (of fuel) but this practice is dangerous, they can put the system under stress unnecessarily,” he added.

Unions have, however, warned that their strikes are renewable, and can therefore be extended. The last extended refinery strikes in October led to supply problems in France that lasted well over a week. 

However Sellini warned that if strike action was stepped up then stocks would be affected and “several motorway service stations may have to close.”

Meanwhile, reports have hinted that fuel prices may start rising again in France in the weeks ahead, as the European Union stepped up sanctions on Russian oil following the invasion of Ukraine.

In December, the EU imposed an embargo on Russian crude oil transported by sea. On February 5th, Member States did the same for refined Russian petroleum products, such as diesel.

Research shows that the oil price cap and the EU embargo on Russian crude is costing Russia €160million a day. Russia’s revenue from fossil fuel exports fell 17 percent in December 2022, to the lowest level since the start of the invasion of Ukraine.

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For members


Reader Question: Does a passport renewal restart the 90 day clock for visiting France?

If you were hoping that your renewed passport might offer a way to avoid the 90-day rule when visiting France, here is what you should know.

Reader Question: Does a passport renewal restart the 90 day clock for visiting France?

Question – I’m British and a frequent visitor to France and since Brexit my passport is stamped when I enter and leave the country, in order to keep track of my 90-day allowance. However I’ve recently renewed my passport and of course the new one has no stamps – does this mean that I get a new 90-day allowance?

While it may seem like passport renewal could be a loophole for getting around the 90 day rule when visiting France, you should not attempt to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in the Schengen zone without a visa or residency permit. 

Non-EU nationals including Americans, Canadians, Australians and – since Brexit – Brits are limited to spending only 90 days out of every 180 within the EU. Anyone who wants to spend longer than this needs to apply for either a passport or a residency card. These rules apply whether you want to move to an EU country such as France to live, or simply want to make frequent or long visits here.

The 90-day ‘clock’ covers all EU and Schengen zone countries – if you need help calculating your time spent in the Schengen zone, you can do so using this online calculator HERE.

Passports are stamped on entry and exit to the EU/Schengen zone, with dates of entry and exit.

However, getting a new passport does not reset the clock – some have suggested that a new passport could be a work-around, as it would not show previous entry/exit stamps which are used to calculate the amount of time a non-EU national person has spent in the Schengen zone. 

The primary reason is that passports are in most cases automatically scanned when you enter and leave the Bloc, which makes it easy to spot over-stayers and for border forces to enforce the 90-day rule. This means that border forces do not only rely on the physical stamps in your passport.

The EU’s new EES – Entry and Exit System – will tighten up the scanning process, but its entry has been delayed.

READ MORE: How does the 90-day rule work in France?

While in previous years France may have earned itself a reputation among non-EU travellers as being not too fussy about the exact exit date of people who aren’t working or claiming benefits, the reality is that you do not want to risk the possible consequences that can come with overstaying in the EU. 

If you are caught over-staying your allocated 90 days you can end up with an ‘over-stay’ flag on your passport which can make it difficult to enter any other country, not just France, and is likely to make any future attempts at getting visas or residency a lot more difficult.

The consequences for staying over can also include being fined – since Brexit, British visitors have reported being stopped and fined at the border upon exit if they are found to have spent more than 90 days in the Schengen zone.

Keep in mind that the 90-day rule does not apply to all non-EU countries – some states, such as India, are required to have a visa for even short stays. You can access the European Union’s map that outlines which countries require visas for short stays to check to see if you are eligible.

To learn more about the 90-day rule, and alternative options for how to stay in France longer than just 90 days out of every 180, click here for The Local’s guide