Macron vs the 'yellow vests': French president faces new protest movement from motorists

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Macron vs the 'yellow vests': French president faces new protest movement from motorists
A motorist displays a fluorescent yellow vest in the boot of her car to show her anger against rising fuel prices. Photo: AFP

The 'yellow vests' - a growing social movement in France is planning to block French roads and bring traffic to a standstill in protest over the rising cost of diesel and petrol. But the president insists fuel taxes must rise.


Remember the "bonnets rouges" (red hats) whose protests forced the French government to drop its controversial eco-tax plan in 2014?

Well, the latest protest movement among motorists in France has been dubbed the 'yellow vests' (gilets jaunes) and they are hoping to force the government into a similar climbdown.

While the bonnets rouges movement was mainly centred in Brittany, western France, the gilets jaunes are threatening to block roads across France on November 17th to protest against the government's plan to hike taxes on petrol and diesel.

France suspends planned 'ecotax' on transport

Drivers in France have taken to displaying the yellow vests on the dashboard or rear of their vehicles to show they are backing the protest against the government.

Several go-slow operations were held by motorists in parts of France at the weekend in preparation for the nationwide protest on November 17th.

The movement which first developed on social media has grown out of anger at the price of diesel and petrol which have risen in the last year by 23 percent and 15 percent respectively. 

READ ALSO: Furious French drivers to block roads but are they right to?

However the price rises are largely due to the rising costs of a barrel of fuel rather than the government's tax increases, which are motivated by the so-called transition ecologique ('ecological transition') which aims to reduce pollution by encouraging the French to buy more environmentally friendly cars.

And on Monday Macron and his government remained unmoved by the unpredictable threat of the spontaneous protest movement.

In an interview published in the French press on Monday, Macron said he understood the anger of motorists but stood by the government's plan to hike fuel taxes further in January, part of the government's aim to bring taxes on diesel to the same level as petrol.

"I fully back the plan to bring the level of taxation on diesel up to a level with petrol. I prefer to tax fuel to than to tax workers," said Macron.

"The same people who moan about the rising fuel costs also fight against air pollution because their children suffer from diseases," said the president, who stressed that the rise in the price of fuel at the pump was largely due to increases in the price of petrol. 

"That's the reality," he said.

"For decades we told people to buy diesel cars but now it's the opposite. It's normal that this is hard to understand," said Macron.

For his part the Economy Minister Bruno Lemaire insisted that the planned hike in fuel taxes in January will not be scrapped to appease protesters.

As part of the government's 2019 budget diesel taxes will rise by 6.5 cents per litre next year, while petrol taxes will rise by 2.9 cents.

"It won't be suspended. We will not stop the ecological transition, which is necessary," said Lemaire.

"The best solution is not to go backwards.We cannot give up our objective for cleaner transport."

The "yellow vests" might have something to say about that.

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Anonymous 2018/11/07 20:00
I'll never let go of my BMW 320 d or my Porsche GT4. Diesel hysteria is overblown and as usual the pols jump on the bandwagon. BTW, check out Macron's garage of expensive polluting vehicles. Nothing like hypocrisy but not unique to French pols.

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