France fuel protests: PM Philippe ‘to halt fuel tax rise’

France fuel protests: PM Philippe ‘to halt fuel tax rise’

Agency News

Paris, Dec 4 : The French government will suspend a fuel tax rise which has led to weeks of violent protests, local media reports say.

The protests have hit major French cities causing considerable damage for the past three weekends. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe sought compromise with the protesters, but they called off talks citing death threats from extremists in their ranks, said a BBC News report.

The "gilets jaunes" (yellow vests) protests have now grown to reflect more widespread anger at the government. Three people have died since the unrest began and the resulting violence and vandalism - notably when statues were smashed at the Arc de Triomphe last Saturday - have been widely condemned.

"Yellow vests" are so called because they have taken to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law.The movement has grown via social media and has supporters across the political spectrum.

President Emmanuel Macron was elected two years ago with an overwhelming mandate for sweeping reform, but his popularity has fallen sharply in recent months.

Mr Macron has accused his political opponents of hijacking the movement in order to block the reforms.The protesters have been waiting for the president to enact the next step in the elaborate pas-de-deux which is French social negotiation.

What the ritual requires now is a gesture from the government that shows that it has not just listened, but that it is prepared to appease.

That is how, since time immemorial, French social conflicts have been resolved.The difficulty for Emmanuel Macron is that this is exactly the kind of capitulation to the street that he has vowed to stop. There will be no change of direction, he repeats to all who will hear, because that would only store up worse problems for the future.

Mr Macron held an urgent security meeting on Monday. Ministers said that while no options had been ruled out, imposing a state of emergency had not been discussed during the talks.He has also cancelled a planned trip to Serbia to concentrate on the crisis.

Mr Philippe, meanwhile, spoke to leaders of the opposition on Monday. He is due to meet MPs from the ruling party, La Republique en Marche, later on Tuesday, and is expected to announce the moratorium afterwards.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire met business representatives to assess the damage caused to businesses over the weekend.Some retailers had seen sales drop by around 20-40pc during the demonstrations, while some restaurants had lost 20-50pc of their takings, he added.

Bruno Retailleau, the Senate leader of the centre-right opposition, the Republicans, said the reported moratorium was "absolutely inadequate". (UNI)