Macron cancels fuel tax increases after violent Paris protests
Emmanuel Macron’s government has cancelled next year’s planned increase in fuel taxes, just one day after saying it would freeze the hikes for six months, as the government tries to calm down violent protests that have shaken France.
The move, which was confirmed by the Elysée, has been forced by a nationwide protest movement known as 'the gilets jaunes' after the yellow high-visibility vests worn by protesters. This has brought riots to Paris and emerged as the biggest political crisis so far in Macron’s 18-month presidency. A third week of protests spilled over into the worst riots in Paris in 50 years on Saturday.
Macron had issued a plea for calm as French authorities struggled to identify individuals who could represent anti-government protesters in negotiations to defuse the crisis.
The government is hoping to forestall an expected repeat of such scenes this weekend after hundreds were injured and arrested last Saturday. The root of that violence was an online protest against the green fuel taxes that quickly morphed into a wide-ranging revolt on falling purchasing power, the neglect of the French regions and against Macron.
“The president and the prime minister together decided that the increase of the carbon tax foreseen in the 2019 [budget] be eliminated,” said the Elysée in a statement on Wednesday evening.
The French government on Wednesday also opened the door to reinstating the country’s contentious wealth tax, a highly symbolic move that would reverse one of President Emmanuel Macron’s most prominent reforms to date.
Prime minister Edouard Philippe had on Tuesday suspended a tax rise on fuel scheduled for January, the first significant policy U-turn since Macron came to power, in the hope that it could kick-start talks.
Protesters continued to block roads, fuel depots and even some factories across France on Wednesday. While blockades of fuel depots in Lorient and Brest in Brittany were lifted, other fuel storage facilities at St Nazaire, Le Mans and on the outskirts of Paris and Marseille were disrupted.
At least two people have died and over 500 others have been injured in France, since protests began against the planned tax hikes on diesel fuel and gasoline in the country.
The protests in France began in Reunion Island, against the government decision to hike tax on diesel and gasoline, which will come into effect on January 1.