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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 13 April 2021

Emmanuel Macron addresses nation and pledges wage increase in response to gilets jaunes

Macron also rolled back on an unpopular increase in taxes on pensioners.

Source: FRANCE 24 English/YouTube

EMBATTLED FRENCH PRESIDENT Emmanuel Macron has announced a €100 per month increase in the minimum wage from next year in a major concession to “yellow vest” protesters who have roiled the country.

The minimum wage was set at €1,498 per month pre-tax in 2018 and €1,185 after tax.

Macron also rolled back most of an unpopular increase in taxes on pensioners which was introduced by his government.

In an address to the nation, the 40-year-old former investment banker also struck a more humble tone than usual as he sought to address criticism of his style of leadership.

“I know that I have hurt some of you with my statements,” he said.

He stressed, however, that the protests by mostly low-income people in small town or rural France were the result of long-term problems.

“Their distress doesn’t date from yesterday. We have ended up getting used to it,” he said.

“These are forty years of malaise that have come to the surface,” he added.

With the protesters vowing to remain at the barricades until their demands are met, Macron’s first public remarks on the crisis in over a week were billed as the most important of his presidency.

Le Parisien newspaper hailed the speech as Macron’s “moment of truth” on its front page, warning that if he failed to appease the anger, “France will enter a dangerous period of political instability”.

France Protests Protesters watched Macron across the country. Source: PA Images

Earlier today, he held four hours of crisis talks at the presidential palace with government ministers, parliamentary leaders, business and labour representatives and regional officials. 

Elected in May 2017 on a promise to revitalise the sluggish French economy, Macron had voted not to be swayed by street protests.

In an attempt to quell the revolt, the government agreed last week to cancel a planned increase in anti-pollution fuel taxes — the spark behind the protests in car-dependent rural and suburban France.

But the move was seen as too little, too late by the protesters, who held a fourth round of protests on Saturday to press for further concessions on reducing inequality.

The month-long campaign of nationwide road blockades and weekend protests in Paris, three of which degenerated into destruction and looting, have taken a toll on the French economy.

The central bank has halved its fourth-quarter growth forecast to just 0.2% from 0.4%, far below the 0.8% growth needed to meet the government’s full-year target of 1.7%.

Protests continue

Protests continued up and down the country today, including near Vichy, central France, where a tax office was padlocked by yellow vests who also stopped trucks going in and out of a L’Oreal cosmetics factory.

High school students also continued to demonstrate in and around their schools, forcing 40 of them to close.

The students have latched on to the yellow vest movement to protest educational reforms, along with plans by Macron to reintroduce a month-long “national service” for young people aged 16 or 17.

Embattled French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to offer fresh concessions on Monday to try end the yellow vest protests that have shaken the country and taken a heavy toll on its economy.

© – AFP 2018

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