Croatian taxis protest Uber at height of tourism season

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ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Hundreds of Croatian taxi drivers protested Friday against Uber services, disrupting traffic at the height of the tourist season in the Adriatic country.

Protesting taxi drivers caused a major traffic slowdown outside the main tourism center of Dubrovnik, authorities said. Demonstrations also disrupted traffic around the airports in Split and Zagreb, the capital.

Protesters demand that the U.S.-based ride-hailing company's app be banned, claiming it has been operating illegally in the country for two years. Croatia's taxi drivers also protested against Uber in June.

"We want the laws to be equal for everyone," protester Bozo Maletic said.

Local media reported skirmishes at the Dubrovnik protest, saying four taxi drivers were hurt.

The government's transport minister Oleg Butkovic criticized the protest and urged taxi drivers to end it. He said the government is preparing new legislation to address the Uber problem.

"I condemn this protest and the blocking of roads in the middle of the season," Butkovic said.

The government recently asked the courts to rule whether to ban the Uber app, Croatian state TV has reported. Officials have said Uber was not in line with the country's regulations.

Croatian TV also quoted Uber in Croatia as calling Friday's protest "absolutely unacceptable and selfish." The company reportedly said the blockade of key tourist areas is harming the country and its citizens, as well as tourists.

Uber added that it stepped up its recently-formed UberBoat service Friday on the Adriatic coast and lowered prices so travelers can reach their destinations.

There are an estimated 5,000 Uber drivers in Croatia, offering cheaper prices than ordinary taxi services. Some 100,000 people in the country of 4.2 million use the Uber app, according to the company.

Croatia is a major holiday destination and its main roads are normally clogged with vehicles during the season.

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