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

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Author (Corporate)
Publication Date 2018-
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Summary:

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.

Further information:

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.

Related Link(s)
Commentary and Analysis
Euro|topics, November 2018: Macron reaches out to yellow vests https://www.eurotopics.net/en/210057/
Euro|topics, November 2018: French up in arms over petrol prices https://www.eurotopics.net/en/209386/
Forbes, 17.11.18: Will France's Mass Protests Today Cause A Macron Climb Down? https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexledsom/2018/11/17/will-frances-mass-protests-today-cause-a-macron-climb-down/#53c07f173145
The New York Times, 28.11.18: France Is Shaken by Protests No One Saw Coming https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/28/opinion/france-protests-yellow-vests.html
The Economist, 27.11.18: What, and who, are France’s 'gilets jaunes'? https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2018/11/27/what-and-who-are-frances-gilets-jaunes
New Statesman, 28.11.18: The yellow jackets are a reminder Emmanuel Macron rules only one version of France https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/2018/11/yellow-jackets-are-reminder-emmanuel-macron-rules-only-one-version-france
The Guardian, 28.11.18: Riots, low ratings … where did it all go wrong for Emmanuel Macron? https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/28/emmanuel-macron-populism-french-president
Foreign Policy, 26.11.18: Les Misérables vs. Macron https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/11/26/les-miserables-vs-macron/
Euro|topics, December 2018: Why are the 'yellow vests' so angry? https://www.eurotopics.net/en/210971/
BBC News, 05.12.18: France protests: Will the environment be the true victim of the fuel-tax riots? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46439469
Euro|topics, December 2018: Macron cedes to pressure from the yellow vests https://www.eurotopics.net/en/211146/
The Guardian, 10.12.18: Europe holds its breath as Macron scrambles to quell protests https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/10/europe-holds-it-breath-as-macron-moves-to-quell-protests
The Economist, 08.12.18: Emmanuel Macron’s problems are more with presentation than policy https://www.economist.com/leaders/2018/12/08/emmanuel-macrons-problems-are-more-with-presentation-than-policy
Euro|topics, December 2018: Yellow vest protests escalate once more https://www.eurotopics.net/en/211387/
Politico, 10.12.18: Santa Macron blows hole in budget https://www.politico.eu/article/opinion-santa-macron-blows-hole-in-budget/
New Statesman, 11.12.18: Emmanuel Macron’s speech revealed a president trying to catch up https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/2018/12/emmanuel-macron-s-speech-revealed-president-trying-catch
The New Yorker, 10.12.18: Inside the Chaos of the Gilets Jaunes Protests https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/inside-the-chaos-of-the-gilets-jaunes-protests
Euro|topics, December 2018: Can Macron's speech appease the yellow vests? https://www.eurotopics.net/en/211471/
Euro|topics, December 2018: How much can concessions to yellow vests cost? https://www.eurotopics.net/en/211551/
Spiegel Online International, 10.12.18: Macron's Ghosts Return To Haunt Him http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/french-protests-macron-s-ghosts-return-to-haunt-him-a-1242554.html
Politico, 14.12.18: Why are France’s Yellow Jackets so angry? https://www.politico.eu/article/why-are-france-yellow-jackets-so-angry-fuel-tax-emmanuel-macron/
Spiegel Online, 17.12.18: If Macron Fails, Europe Fails http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/commentary-macron-versus-the-yellow-vests-a-1243724.html
LSE: EUROPP Blog, 10.01.19: The gilets jaunes: The good, the bad and the ugly http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2019/01/10/the-gilets-jaunes-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/
New Statesman, 07.01.19: The 'yellow vests' won’t let Emmanuel Macron take back control https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/2019/01/yellow-vests-won-t-let-emmanuel-macron-take-back-control
Politico, 09.01.19: Why Italy’s 5Stars love France’s Yellow Jackets https://www.politico.eu/article/5stars-italy-why-love-france-yellow-jackets/
The Guardian, 13.01.19: Yellow vests: protesters fight for ideological ownership https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/13/yellow-vests-protesters-fight-for-ideological-ownership
Politico, 16.01.19: In the Yellow Jackets’ heartland https://www.politico.eu/article/france-protests-yellow-jackets-heartland-gilets-jaunes/

News
France 24, 19.11.18: France's 'yellow vest' protesters block access to fuel depots https://www.france24.com/en/20181119-france-yellow-vest-protesters-block-access-fuel-depots-taxes-total
BBC News, 27.11.18: France fuel protests: Macron drives ahead amid unrest https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46356649
The Local (France), 19.11.18: Fuel depots blocked as France's 'yellow vest' protest enters third day https://www.thelocal.com/20181119/french-fuel-tax-protests-yellow-vests-continue-road-blocks
France 24, 18.11.18: Accidents and anger at anti-Macron ‘yellow vest’ road blocks across France https://www.france24.com/en/20181117-france-live-yellow-vest-protesters-block-roads-fuel-tax-hike-macron-petrol
Euronews, 18.11.18: Over 250,000 protest over fuel prices in France https://www.euronews.com/2018/11/18/over-250-000-thousand-protest-over-fuel-prices-in-france
The Guardian, 17.11.18: One killed and hundreds injured in French anti-Macron protests https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/17/french-protester-killed-accident-anti-fuel-tax-blockade
TIME, 17.11.18: France Fuel Taxes Protest Ends With 1 Dead and 47 Injured http://time.com/5457977/france-fuel-taxes-protest/
France 24, 26.11.18: Macron to address nation in wake of violent protests https://www.france24.com/en/20181126-france-macron-address-nation-wake-violent-yellow-vest-protests
The Local (France), 23.11.18: 'We hear you': Macron to announce new measures as French support for 'yellow vest' rebellion grows https://www.thelocal.fr/20181123/macron-to-announce-new-measures-as-support-for-yellow-vests-grows
The Local (France), 27.11.18: 'We won't cut fuel taxes': Macron responds to 'yellow vest' demands https://www.thelocal.fr/20181127/we-cant-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? https://www.france24.com/en/20181128-france-government-diesel-tax-yellow-vest-protest-macron-climate-change-philippe
RFI News, 28.11.18: Yellow Vests call new protests as government proposes talks http://en.rfi.fr/20181128-yellow-vests-call-new-protests-government-proposes-talks
EurActiv, 28.11.18: Macron wants France to become carbon neutral by 2050 https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/macron-wants-to-get-france-off-fossil-fuels/
Politico, 27.11.18: Macron tries to defuse fuel protest with tax tweak https://www.politico.eu/article/macron-tries-to-defuse-fuel-protest-with-tax-tweak/
Deutsche Welle, 27.11.18: Emannuel Macron: 'Yellow vest' protests won't change fuel tax https://p.dw.com/p/38yAJ
The Guardian, 02.12.18: French government considers state of emergency over ‘gilets jaunes’ protests https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/01/paris-france-protests-yellow-vests-gilets-jaunes-champs-elysees
BBC News, 02.12.18: France fuel protests: Macron holds urgent security meeting https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46417991
Politico, 01.12.18: Macron talks tough after Yellow Jackets riot in Paris https://www.politico.eu/article/yellow-jackets-protests-paris-police/
EurActiv, 03.12.18: Macron surveys damage after Paris riots, calls for talks https://www.euractiv.com/section/future-eu/news/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 https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/04/world/europe/france-fuel-tax-yellow-vests.html
EurActiv, 05.12.18: Macron makes U-turn on fuel-tax increases in face of ‘yellow vest’ protests https://www.euractiv.com/section/elections/news/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 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46437904
The Guardian, 04.12.18: Gilets jaunes protests in France to continue despite fuel tax U-turn https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/04/french-government-to-suspend-fuel-tax-increase-say-reports
Reuters, 05.12.18: France drops fuel tax hike as 'yellow vest' anger persists https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-france-protests-tax/france-drops-fuel-tax-hike-as-yellow-vest-anger-persists-idUKKBN1O40PM
The Guardian, 05.12.18: Macron scraps fuel tax rise in face of gilets jaunes protests https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/05/france-wealth-tax-changes-gilets-jaunes-protests-president-macron
BBC News, 05.12.18: France protests: Fuel tax rises in 2019 budget dropped https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46460445
France24, 05.12.18: Macron abandons fuel-tax hike amid fears of new ‘Yellow Vest’ protests https://www.france24.com/en/20181205-france-macron-abandons-fuel-tax-hike-fears-violence-new-yellow-vest-protests
The Guardian, 10.12.18: Macron bows to protesters' demands and says: I know I have hurt some of you https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/10/macron-pledges-to-raise-french-minimum-wage-gilet-jaunes-protests
BBC News, 10.12.18: France yellow vest protests: Macron promises wage rise https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46513189
EurActiv, 11.12.18: Macron announces financial concessions in bid to end ‘yellow vest’ revolt https://www.euractiv.com/section/economy-jobs/news/macron-announces-financial-concessions-in-bid-to-end-yellow-vest-revolt/
Euronews, 10.12.18: Trump among populist leaders to applaud efforts of Gilets Jaunes https://www.euronews.com/2018/12/10/trump-among-populist-leaders-to-applaud-efforts-of-gilets-jaunes
Politico, 10.12.18: Macron offers sweeteners to calm Yellow Jackets protests https://www.politico.eu/article/emmanuel-macron-address-offers-sweeteners-to-calm-yellow-jackets-protest/
The Local (Italy), 07.01.19: Italian leaders back French 'yellow vest' protesters https://www.thelocal.it/20190107/italian-leaders-back-french-yellow-vest-protesters
France24, 07.01.19: Italy's populist leaders back France's 'Yellow Vest' protests https://www.france24.com/en/20190107-italy-france-populist-yellow-vest-silvini-di-maio-protests
Politico, 09.01.19: Macron’s popularity jumps as Yellow Jacket measures kick in https://www.politico.eu/article/emmanuel-macron-yellow-jackets-france-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 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/08/114000-euros-raised-french-boxer-clash-police-gilets-jaunes-protest
Euronews, 07.01.19: Italy Italian populist leader di Maio shows support for Yellow Vest movement https://www.euronews.com/2019/01/07/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 https://www.euractiv.com/section/eu-elections-2019/news/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 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46788751
Euronews, 14.01.19: France In letter to the French, Macron launches 'great debate' to quell 'yellow vests' https://www.euronews.com/2019/01/13/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 https://www.thelocal.fr/20190113/nothing-but-lies-yellow-vests-reveal-why-they-dont-believe-the-media
Deutsche Welle, 12.01.19: Thousands of police mobilize for 9th 'yellow vests' protests https://p.dw.com/p/3BQhL
BBC News, 12.01.19: Gilets Jaunes stage ninth round of protests in France https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-46852600
EurActiv, 14.01.19: France’s ‘great national debate’: Taxes, public services, environment and democracy https://www.euractiv.com/section/eu-elections-2019/news/frances-great-national-debate-taxes-public-services-environment-and-democracy/
Reuters, 13.01.19: French media denounce violent 'yellow vest' attacks on press https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN1P70J3

Official
Emmanuel Macron: Address to the Nation, 10 December 2018 [Youtube] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4L1QN50CKw
Élysée: Actualités, 10.12.18: Faire de cette colère une chance https://www.elysee.fr/emmanuel-macron/2018/12/10/adresse-du-president-de-la-republique-du-lundi-10-decembre-2018
Élysée: Actualités, 13.01.19: Lettre aux Français [Letter from President Macron to the French people - in French] https://www.elysee.fr/emmanuel-macron/2019/01/13/lettre-aux-francais

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