France promises measures to pacify furious drivers but vows crackdown on road blocks

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 14 Nov, 2018 Updated Wed 14 Nov 2018 14:41 CEST
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The French prime minister has promised to ease the financial burden on motorists in France as anger increases over rising fuel prices but has vowed that the planned road blocks at protests around the country this weekend will not be tolerated.


Saturday could be one of the biggest days of protest against President Emmanuel Macron and his government since he was elected in May 2017.
A motorists protest group known as  'yellow vests' (gilets jaunes) are hoping to force the government to lower the prices of fuel by blocking roads and highways in France and Belgium on November 17th.
Around 600 protests are planned around the country on Saturday.
However on Wednesday French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe attempted some damage control in an interview with RTL by promising to introduce measures intended to appease the country's motorists who are furious over rising fuel prices. 
Starting with the firm stance that the government would not be lowering or abolishing the carbon tax, which some motorists have blamed for rising prices, the PM went on to say: "We hear the French and will accompany them in this difficult ecological transition."
One of the promises is to "massively develop" the so-called "conversion bonus" designed to help people make the expensive transition to more environmentally-friendly vehicles. 
"For the 20 percent most modest French households, we will create a 'super-premium' of €4000 for used vehicles," confirmed Philippe.
This means that for people who fall into this category, they will be given a €4000 bonus from the government in order to make the switch to an energy efficient car. 
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This represents a doubling of the "conversion bonus" which as previously set to be €1000 for taxable households and €2000 euros for non-taxable households.
Philippe said that the government also plans to massively increase the number of households that benefit from the bonus. 
According to the PM, over the entire five-year presidential term one million households will benefit compared to the 500,000 initially announced by the former Minister for the ecological transition, Nicolas Hulot.
Those who will not be eligible for this "super-bonus" will also not be forgotten, said the head of government, adding that there would also be allowances for those who are required to drive a long way in their daily lives. 
"We will target those who drive a lot by changing and expanding the kilometric allowances," he said.
On top of that more people will benefit from the "energy check" -- an allowance paid to households with modest incomes to help them pay their energy bills, such as gas and electricity. 
In future, it will benefit 5.6 million households compared to 3.6 million currently.
One of the objectives of this is that there will be no more fuel oil boilers in France in the next ten years.
"We are going to develop the boiler conversion bonus to make sure that the French can free themselves from this extraordinary constraint."
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The Prime Minister promises to support "one-third of the overall cost of transformation."
The measures appeared unlikely however to appease the "angry vests", who have capitalised on frustration with Macron's policies, seen as favouring high-earners voters in cities over the rural population.
However the French PM wasn't only playing Mister Nice Guy on Wednesday morning. 
In addition to the measures mentioned above he also made it clear that the government will not tolerate road blocks during this Saturday's protests against rising fuel costs which have seen the price of diesel and petrol which have risen in the last year by 23 percent and 15 percent respectively. 
"Demonstrating, yes, but blocks, no," said Philippe in the interview with RTL. 
"The law applies" and  "impeding traffic is punished," said the PM. "I say to the French: you have the right to demonstrate, of course. But we must take responsibility and respect the law."
If some roads were to be blocked and needed by firefighters or ambulances, it would jeopardize the safety of the French, and, of course, we will take the necessary measures."
The Dordogne prefecture has issued a release reminding people of the rule of demonstrating which includes the warning that "the right to demonstrate may be subject to limitations by the public authorities if there is a risk of disturbance to public order."  



The Local 2018/11/14 14:41

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