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Anger as France ditches 'ecotax' on lorries

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Anger as France ditches 'ecotax' on lorries
The Bonnet Rouges protesters clash with riot police over the planned Ecotax last year. Photo: AFP
10:36 CEST+02:00
France's Minister for Ecology said this week that the controversial “ecotax” on heavy goods vehicles was dead in the water, prompting outrage from environmentalists. On the up side a planned truckers strike has been called off.

The French government once again angered green campaigners this week by ditching a plan to tax heavy good vehicles, under the threat of a protests from truck drivers.

Ecology Minister Ségoléne Royal announced on Thursday the government would not be introducing the tax – which was a watered down version of the original and highly controversial ecotax – which was suspended after violent protests last year.

Royal had only announced her new version of the ecotax - effectively tolls on trucks over 3.5 tonnes which use certain roads in France - back in June. It was due to be rolled out in January 2015.

Former centre-right prime minister Alain Juppé, who is aiming to run for the presidential elections in 2017, lamented the "amateurism" of the government.

'It feels like France has no government. We do not see in what direction it wants to go. We need clarity not permanent zigzagging," said Juppé.

And a former minister in President François Hollande's government, Cécile Duflot, a member of France’s green EELV party, said the U-turn was a “disastrous error”.

She deplored the government’s lack of “political courage”.

“As soon as it comes to taking action, everyone disappears,” Duflot told RTL radio.

“By abandoning the Ecotax, they will lose €450 million that could have been spent on upgrades and transport,” she said.

Royal justified her decision on Friday by saying the tax would be hard to implement and it “would destroy more jobs in the haulage industry than it would create”.

After deciding to ditch the tax Royal announced her intention to make up for the shortfall in revenue by taxing the companies that run France’s privatised motorway system.

The government also faces having to pay-out millions to the private Italian company Ecomouv – who had won the contract to impose the Ecotax, through a series of roadside “portals”.

Many of the portals, some of which were destroyed by protesters last year, are still standing.

The government has no plan for what to do with the portals.

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