- Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images
- France’s Prime Minister froze a controversial diesel tax on Tuesday, one which sparked deadly riots in Paris.
- It’s a victory for the Yellow Vest movement who say the tax, which jacked up diesel prices by 16% in 2018, hits the poor hardest.
- Protesters torched 100 cars in Paris on Saturday, defaced the Arc de Triomphe, and clashed with police.
- The protests have left three people dead, in road accidents connected to protest activities like blockades.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe froze a controversial tax hike on Tuesday, which had sparked deadly riots and protests nationwide.
Philippe, an appointee of French President Emmanuel Macron, announced a six-month delay to the tax, according to the Associated Press (AP) and Le Monde. The delay pushes it back from its original start date of January 1 2019 until mid-way through the year.
The government hopes this will bring a temporary calm to violence caused by the Yellow Vest movement across the country and capital.
He said: “The French who have donned yellow vests want taxes to drop, and work to pay. That’s also what we want. If I didn’t manage to explain it, if the ruling majority didn’t manage to convince the French, then something must change.”
Philippe met legislators at the National Assembly on Monday in Paris to outline his proposal, and then announced the tax freeze publicly around midday local time.
The concession gives way to the movement, known in French as “Des Gilets Jaunes,” who orchestrated their third consecutive protest in Paris on Saturday.
- Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images
The group say that the tax is unfair to rural and poor people and that Macron’s government is abandoning them.
More than 36,000 people protested on Saturday across France, with 5,000 of those in Paris, where a riot against police ended in 412 arrests, according to authorities.
The cost of the rioting – the worst in Paris since 1968 – could reportedly be in the hundreds of millions of euros.
On Monday, Philippe scrambled to end the crisis by meeting with opposition party leaders in Paris, Reuters reported.
France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, reportedly called a meeting with Philippe after returning from the G20 summit. Reuters said he told Philippe to meet with the Yellow Vests on Tuesday to hear out their demands.
However, the group cancelled the Tuesday meeting, caused by hardline protesters within the movement sending death threats to their own members for even thinking of negotiating.
- REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Macron has argued that the fuel tax will combat climate change, and as recently as Saturday said that he would not deviate from his policy goals, Reuters said. It is unclear how the decision to freeze the tax fits that narrative.
Their decision wear wear yellow high-visibility vests is a direct reference to French traffic laws, which instructs everybody to carry a yellow vest in their vehicle, and has been in force since 2008.