Protests across France over rising cost of living and the emergence of the ‘Yellow Vest’ movement

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Publication Date 2018-
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Hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests across France in November and December 2018 over rising fuel prices and overall cost of living. The 'yellow vest' movement  (Yellow Vests - Gilets Jaunes) set up roadblocks and held demonstrations, causing major disruption and a number of casualties.

The protests were called following the approval by the French government of a measure increasing a direct tax on diesel, as well as a tax on carbon, in an effort to fight against the use of fossil fuels. President Emmanuel Macron initially vowed not dismiss these measures, but as protests became more violent, the French authorities later decided to drop the implementation of the tax change. On 10 December, Mr Macron decided to address the nation and announce a set of measures aimed at easing the social unrest. This did not entirely stop the protests, although it appeared to reduce the number of demonstrators across the country.

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The measure, which sets taxes on diesel rise by 6.5 cents and 2.9 cents on petrol from January, was approved by the French cabinet in late 2017.

Dozens of petitions were launched online urging the French President to repeal the tax hike. The protests were the latest sign of discontent amongst a largely working class population, which argues policies put forward by Mr Macron's leadership favour the metropolitan elite only. In order to counter this argument, the government unveiled a €500 million package of measures to support low-income households, including energy subsidies and higher scrap page bonuses for the purchase of cleaner vehicles.

Faced with violent anti-government protests in Paris, the President announced on 27 November a set of new measures in an attempt to rally support for environment-friendly tax increases. He announced further financial help for French people to help them make the shift to greener cars and sources of heating - known as the 'ecological transition', but said he would not back down on environmentally friendly policies.

Protests became increasingly violent in early December. The French government performed a U-turn by announcing on 4 December a suspension in the implementation of the tax change. The 'yellow vest' movement vowed to continue demonstrating against the rising cost of living in France. On the following day, the Prime Minister told Parliament the tax increase had been excluded from the annual budget proposal. Facing continuing societal instability, President Macron decided to address the nation on 10 December and announced a set of measures aimed at easing lives of those less well-off. It was later highlighted these measures would affect the country's budget deficit.

The protests continued into the New Year, leading to a government decision to crack down on unsanctioned protests. In the meantime, the deputy head of Italy's government showed his support to the 'yellow vest' movement in France, gathering criticism from the French authorities. As violent clashes continued throughout January 2019, President Macron published an open letter to the French people launching a national debate on the issues behind the rise of the movement. Some media sources reported the emergence of anti-media rhetoric among yellow vest protesters.

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Commentary and Analysis
Euro|topics, November 2018: Macron reaches out to yellow vests
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Forbes, 17.11.18: Will France's Mass Protests Today Cause A Macron Climb Down?
The New York Times, 28.11.18: France Is Shaken by Protests No One Saw Coming
The Economist, 27.11.18: What, and who, are France’s 'gilets jaunes'?
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Euro|topics, December 2018: Why are the 'yellow vests' so angry?
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France 24, 19.11.18: France's 'yellow vest' protesters block access to fuel depots
BBC News, 27.11.18: France fuel protests: Macron drives ahead amid unrest
The Local (France), 19.11.18: Fuel depots blocked as France's 'yellow vest' protest enters third day
France 24, 18.11.18: Accidents and anger at anti-Macron ‘yellow vest’ road blocks across France
Euronews, 18.11.18: Over 250,000 protest over fuel prices in France
The Guardian, 17.11.18: One killed and hundreds injured in French anti-Macron protests
TIME, 17.11.18: France Fuel Taxes Protest Ends With 1 Dead and 47 Injured
France 24, 26.11.18: Macron to address nation in wake of violent protests
The Local (France), 23.11.18: 'We hear you': Macron to announce new measures as French support for 'yellow vest' rebellion grows
The Local (France), 27.11.18: 'We won't cut fuel taxes': Macron responds to 'yellow vest' demands
France24, 28.11.18: As French govt holds firm on diesel tax, where do 'Yellow Vest' protests stand?
RFI News, 28.11.18: Yellow Vests call new protests as government proposes talks
EurActiv, 28.11.18: Macron wants France to become carbon neutral by 2050
Politico, 27.11.18: Macron tries to defuse fuel protest with tax tweak
Deutsche Welle, 27.11.18: Emannuel Macron: 'Yellow vest' protests won't change fuel tax
The Guardian, 02.12.18: French government considers state of emergency over ‘gilets jaunes’ protests
BBC News, 02.12.18: France fuel protests: Macron holds urgent security meeting
Politico, 01.12.18: Macron talks tough after Yellow Jackets riot in Paris
EurActiv, 03.12.18: Macron surveys damage after Paris riots, calls for talks
The New York Times, 04.12.18: France Suspends Fuel Tax Increase That Spurred Violent Protests
EurActiv, 05.12.18: Macron makes U-turn on fuel-tax increases in face of ‘yellow vest’ protests
BBC News, 04.12.18: France protests: PM Philippe suspends fuel tax rises
The Guardian, 04.12.18: Gilets jaunes protests in France to continue despite fuel tax U-turn
Reuters, 05.12.18: France drops fuel tax hike as 'yellow vest' anger persists
The Guardian, 05.12.18: Macron scraps fuel tax rise in face of gilets jaunes protests
BBC News, 05.12.18: France protests: Fuel tax rises in 2019 budget dropped
France24, 05.12.18: Macron abandons fuel-tax hike amid fears of new ‘Yellow Vest’ protests
The Guardian, 10.12.18: Macron bows to protesters' demands and says: I know I have hurt some of you
BBC News, 10.12.18: France yellow vest protests: Macron promises wage rise
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Euronews, 10.12.18: Trump among populist leaders to applaud efforts of Gilets Jaunes
Politico, 10.12.18: Macron offers sweeteners to calm Yellow Jackets protests
The Local (Italy), 07.01.19: Italian leaders back French 'yellow vest' protesters
France24, 07.01.19: Italy's populist leaders back France's 'Yellow Vest' protests
Politico, 09.01.19: Macron’s popularity jumps as Yellow Jacket measures kick in
The Guardian, 08.01.19: €114,000 raised for boxer who punched police at gilets jaunes protest
Euronews, 07.01.19: Italy Italian populist leader di Maio shows support for Yellow Vest movement
EurActiv, 10.01.19: France kick-starts ‘grand national debate’ to calm yellow vest protesters
BBC News, 08.01.19: Yellow vests: France to crack down on unsanctioned protests
Euronews, 14.01.19: France In letter to the French, Macron launches 'great debate' to quell 'yellow vests'
The Local (France), 13.01.19: 'They tell nothing but lies': France's 'yellow vests' reveal their hatred of the media
Deutsche Welle, 12.01.19: Thousands of police mobilize for 9th 'yellow vests' protests
BBC News, 12.01.19: Gilets Jaunes stage ninth round of protests in France
EurActiv, 14.01.19: France’s ‘great national debate’: Taxes, public services, environment and democracy
Reuters, 13.01.19: French media denounce violent 'yellow vest' attacks on press

Emmanuel Macron: Address to the Nation, 10 December 2018 [Youtube]
Élysée: Actualités, 10.12.18: Faire de cette colère une chance
Élysée: Actualités, 13.01.19: Lettre aux Français [Letter from President Macron to the French people - in French]

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