Posts Tagged ‘Macron’

Yellow Vests: Socialist France Struggles To Find Economic Equality Despite Enormous Welfare Pay-Outs and Tax Cuts

January 18, 2019

Without tax and welfare payouts, nearly 42 percent of the population of France would be living in poverty, the highest rate among OECD countries for which recent data is available.

France’s “yellow vest” protests have exposed a deep-rooted belief that society is not working for large swathes of the French population, especially outside major cities.

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Driving the unrest is anger about rising living costs – particularly among low-paid workers – and a perception that President Emmanuel Macron is deaf to their needs as he presses on with reforms seen as favoring the wealthy.

The following graphics look at underlying economic and social indicators in France to try to explain why so many people believe the system is working against them.


Without welfare transfers, poverty and inequality in France would be among the highest in developed countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Paris-based group estimates.

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While many protesters rail against what they see as a gulf between them and the upper echelons of French society, OECD data suggests that the wealth divide is not as bad as in many other rich countries.

France’s extensive welfare system keeps the poverty rate at 14.3 percent, below the 18 percent OECD average and on a par with Scandinavian countries known for their egalitarianism.

Without tax and welfare payouts, nearly 42 percent of the population would be living in poverty, the highest rate among OECD countries for which recent data is available.

Likewise, France’s Gini coefficient, a gauge of income inequality, is slightly below the OECD average whereas without welfare transfers it would be among the highest, just behind Italy, Portugal and Greece, according to OECD data.

While a progressive tax system and generous welfare help narrow the wealth gap, it comes at a price as French taxpayers also bear the highest tax burden in the world here

Tax cuts on wealth and financial assets early on in Macron’s five-year term have added to middle-class taxpayers’ frustration and he has been criticized as being a president of the rich.


Unlike Scandinavian countries, France’s poor have little hope of improving their lot in life despite the billions of euros the government spends on them, according to OECD data.

The OECD estimates it would take six generations for a person from a low-income family in France to reach an average income compared with only two generations in Denmark and an OECD average of 4.5.

“There are no rungs anymore on France’s social ladder,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, a conservative, said on Monday.

A demonstrator during a Yellow Vest protest in Paris this month.Credit Abdul Abeissa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

While six generations is on a par with its neighbor Germany, the French have a deep attachment to the idea that state institutions, from schools to courts to government, are supposed to offer the same chance of success to all.

But despite income support for those on low incomes, they have little chance of doing better than their parents, according to a study last year by France Strategie think-tank, which is linked to the prime minister’s office.

The study found that a person whose father was a senior white-collar worker was 4.5 times more likely to belong to the wealthiest fifth of the population than someone whose father was a manual worker – largely because social origin correlates closely with one’s level of education.

While France is close to the average in international education comparisons, it has a bigger gulf between the scores of the lowest and highest performing upper school students, the OECD’s director of social affairs Stefano Scarpetta said.


The protests originally erupted in November over higher fuel taxes, that have since been scrapped, and general frustration about the high cost of living, sparking the worst street violence Paris has seen in decades.

With people on low incomes surviving on welfare handouts and the lower middle class squeezed by the tax burden, the French are highly sensitive to pressure on their daily budgets.

That helps explain a national obsession with purchasing power and French politicians are frequently judged on whether people are getting more spare cash.

A protest in Grand Bourgtheroulde before the start of what the government billed as the Great National Debate, which it hopes will calm tensions. Credit Charly Triballeau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

While protesters largely ignored new tax breaks to boost purchasing power, official data lends credence to their claims that budgets are getting squeezed.

The pressure is increasingly coming from housing costs, which now absorb 23 percent of their budgets compared with 10 percent a generation ago, according to the official French statistics agency INSEE.

Meanwhile, a lack of jobs, deindustrialization and dwindling public services mean that discontent is highest in smaller towns cut off from the economic opportunities of bigger cities.

In towns of 5,000-10,000 people, 21 percent report below average life satisfaction compared to 14 percent in the capital Paris, INSEE said in a study this week.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas; editing by David Clarke




Gridlock Is the New Normal — Brext Has UK Tied Up, U.S. in Govt Shutdown, France Battles Yellow Vests

January 17, 2019

We can now stop anything we don’t want, but can’t enable anything we need.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May (picture-alliance/PA Wire/House of Commons)
The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May in Parliament  PHOTO: REUTERS

In the United States and the United Kingdom—two of the world’s oldest democracies—national governments are at a standstill. This, for better or worse, could be the future of politics. It will be a system in which things have to get worse before they can get . . . worse. Perpetual political gridlock. It won’t be pretty, and for many it may be painful.

Historic Defeat Sees U.K. Parliament “Take Back Control” of Brexit

Historic Defeat Sees U.K. Parliament “Take Back Control” of Brexit
U.K. lawmakers have rejected the Prime Minister’s terms for leaving the European Union. Options left include leaving the EU without a deal or a second referendum. Image: Parliament TV

Both the U.S. government’s shutdown and the U.K.’s Brexit have become problems with no exit. Every strategy offered fails for lack of legislative support or national leadership. The American and British political classes look intellectually exhausted and clueless about a path forward.

Something more substantial than routine political frustration may be happening here. Public-policy efforts, such as Brexit or revisions to the U.S. immigration and health-care systems, look like they have become too big to accomplish.

Critics of these failures conventionally say they reflect a lack of political will or courage. Still, we are left with the reality of political structures that are dead in the water. If they lack will, it may be because political willfulness has become a stronger force.

Media has proliferated, so that objectors to any policy’s details have multiple platforms they can use to block settlements. We have the political tools to stop anything we don’t want, but we can’t enable anything we need.

Prime Minister Theresa May overwhelmingly lost the vote Tuesday on her Brexit plan to separate the U.K. from the European Union. No space will be wasted here describing the morass of imagined scenarios: no-Brexit, hard Brexit or a Brexit vote redo. Attempts by journalists to compose flowcharts of all the Brexit possibilities and contingencies resemble Rube Goldberg drawings.

The most likely scenario is that the parties will stumble and grope forward, as they did with the Greek debt crisis 10 years ago. The EU is starting to look like Bluebeard’s Castle, a complex edifice of nightmares and delights from which there is no escape after entry.

The U.S. government shutdown is nominally a fight between President Trump and the Democratic Party over building a wall at the border with Mexico. But the wall, whatever its merits, is a proxy for the broader issue of immigration into the U.S.

Immigration has been an unavoidable factor in the life of the U.S. for centuries. But Congress hasn’t passed a big immigration bill in more than 30 years. All subsequent efforts have broken down because some faction has had the ability to block them. Recognizing the impossibility, Congress today has walked away from the subject.

Minimalist answers like the border wall also may represent the future—a conscious act of self-delusion that sates the emotional needs of contemporary politics but lets the realities fester.

Terry McAuliffe, a former Democratic governor of Virginia and possible contender for the party’s presidential nomination, recently said, “We all support Medicare for all.” Mission accomplished, notwithstanding that Medicare for all has next to no chance of becoming a daily reality in the U.S.

Congress’s intention to take on infrastructure legislation this year likely will repeat its wheel-spinning experiences with immigration and health care to become the next case study of mega-gridlock.

Any infrastructure effort will have to pass through a tangled thicket of environmental objections, Nimby activists who oppose anything, union work rules, public-versus-private financing schemes, the needs of local political actors, the conflicted interests of cities and rural areas or the nation’s competing regional demands.

In August, the huge Morandi bridge in Genoa, Italy, collapsed, killing 43 people. The slow disintegration of something important, such as a bridge, may be the controlling image for aging political systems that fall down on the job. Their default will be to let responsibilities like Brexit, immigration or Nafta collapse, and then, under duress, rebuild from whatever is left.

Genoa bridge collapse: The mafia's role
The collapsed Morandi Bridge in Genoa. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

That won’t be pain-free. This is the Trump model on trade: Tear it down, accept the inevitable casualties, and hope for the best with whatever comes next.

It’s fashionable to deride Mr. Trump’s crude, tanklike strategy of grinding across broken glass. Look past the Trump personality, though, and you may soon see more conventional politicians, out of options, resorting to his political model.

One reason this is happening is that politicians and external factions foment dramatic projects like Brexit without possessing any idea how to execute them. They gave British voters a lot of emotion but no game plan. More than two years later, they still don’t have one.

Another reason is the rise in power of the inconsolables. Political factions are eternal. The new element is that their social-media bullhorn makes them seem larger and more intimidating than they are. Twitter really is the mouse that roars. Unable to figure it out, the politicians have turned themselves into twittering mice on the floors of Parliament and Congress. They look trapped. So do we.


Appeared in the January 17, 2019, print edition.

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Macron Hopes Talk Will Calm France, but an Air of Menace Prevails

January 16, 2019

After weeks of national turmoil spurred by the Yellow Vest protests, President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday kicked off what he intended as a peacemaking exercise, and what the French government billed as the “Great National Debate.”

In a sort of two-month talkfest, the French are supposed to air their grievances, all shepherded by the government and local mayors. A cultural fondness for talk, and more talk, will get its consecration, with the hope that calm will follow.

For the moment, however, France is anything but calm.

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Apart from the random violence and vandalism in the streets of Paris and other French cities, there have also been less evident and more targeted threats, and violence, in an atmosphere of increasing menace.

Mr. Macron’s deputies in parliament have become the front-line proxies for Yellow Vest hatred of the president. Dozens of parliamentarians representing his political movement La Republique en Marche, or Republic on the Move, have been threatened, their houses and offices vandalized, and anti-Semitic and racist insults hurled at them.

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Television journalists have also been targets — beaten, threatened, kicked, punched and prevented from doing their work.

Even Mr. Macron’s rare public appearance — they have been deemed too risky since the beginning of the Yellow Vest movement — was made under virtual siege.

A demonstrator during a Yellow Vest protest in Paris this month.Credit Abdul Abeissa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The police blockaded the village where he was to speak, Grand Bourgtheroulde, banning most traffic, preventing Yellow Vests from reaching it, and screening those leaving the highway and entering the village.

It was rural France, but tear gas, a regular feature of the protest movement, was deployed to push back some who managed to get through. Wagonloads of police officers were stationed in the woods surrounding the village.

Mr. Macron, tagged as “President of the Rich” by the angry Yellow Vests, was taking no chances. The current situation, he told the mayors, “presents our country with a lot of challenges.” That was something of an understatement.

Still, the French media noted, the president had spoken the words “Yellow Vest” in public for the first time — two months after the movement began — an omission seen as a sign of his often-noted remoteness.

The Yellow Vest movement, set off by a fuel tax increase, has spawned a rare climate of anti-establishment hatred in France, with some historians comparing it to the atmosphere of the 1930s, when fascistic leagues threatened France’s democracy and marched on the National Assembly.

The personal targeting — members of parliament say some 50 of them have been threatened by the Yellow Vests — is unprecedented in the country’s modern era, according to historians.

“Never in the 5th Republic has a social movement like this one reached this level of physical violence,” said a historian of France’s institutions, Christophe Bellon of Sciences-Po.

A protest in Grand Bourgtheroulde before the start of what the government billed as the Great National Debate, which it hopes will calm tensions. Credit Charly Triballeau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“This is new, in terms of the density of the violence,” Mr. Bellon said. “It’s a resurgence of anti-parlimentarianism, and it’s the expression of a malaise, an uneasiness, in France.”

Television journalists now travel with security details. One guard was taken to a hospital in Rouen this weekend after angry Yellow Vests set upon the journalists he was trying to protect, punching and kicking.

Another team from BFM-TV, the dominant all-news channel and a particular target of the Yellow Vests hatred for what is perceived as bias, was force-marched from the city of Bourges as insults rained down, in a scene filmed by the Yellow Vests.

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Macron sparks new outrage with comments launching ‘national debate’ — Said some of those struggling economically were just “screwing up”

January 15, 2019

President Emmanuel Macron’s hopes to quell the economic anger of Yellow Vest protesters by announcing a national debate ran aground on Tuesday when he sparked new outrage by saying some of those struggling economically were just “screwing up”.

Macron had planned to try to quell a rising tide of economic anger with a speech in Normandy announcing a round of public gatherings that would form a “grand national debate” on the issues facing France, from tax reform to green energy.

Ludovic Marin, AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a gathering of mayors in the Normandy city of Grand Bourgtheroulde on January 15, 2019, as part of the official launch of a “great national debate”.

But instead he sparked an immediate backlash while on a surprise visit to the town of Gasny by seeming to suggest that many of those struggling economically had only themselves to blame.

Even as the French president expressed his desire to help people in “difficult economic circumstances” by making them “more responsible”, he mused that while some were “doing the right thing” others were just “screwing up”.

His sentiments, as well as the vulgar expression he used in French, sparked immediate reactions on social media from politicians on both the left and the right.

Socialist politician Olivier Faure was one of the first to fire back.

”I want to answer the president: There are rich people who are good citizens and rich people who screw up, and who seriously screw up,” he told Reuters. “This way of always … [suggesting] that it is the poorest who are committing the abuses cannot be countenanced.”

MP Daniel Fasquelle of the right-wing Les Républicains party tweeted:

“Mr. #Macron launches the grand debate by targeting troubled French people who are ‘screwing up’. How can we unite and appease the country if we continue to stigmatise and set the French against each other? This requires a change of policy but also of attitude on the part of [those in] power.”

part of [those in] power.”

“Emmanuel #Macron wants to ’empower’ people in ‘difficulty’ because ‘there are some who do the right thing and there are those who screw up’ according to him…” tweeted MP Valérie Boyer of Les Républicains.”

“[T]he year 2019 begins as it ended. Debates are now open but still the same contempt for the French!”

Macron had already unleashed a fresh wave of indignation on Friday, when he said that too many French citizens “think they can get things without making an effort“.

The 41-year-old centrist has made a series of comments perceived by many French as arrogant and out of touch, including when he told a jobless man that all he had to do was “cross the street” to find work.

France has had an unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent for most of the past decade.

A former Rothschild investment banker, critics have slammed Macron as “the president of the rich”.

This debate does not represent the people at all!’

‘Talk, exchange and debate’

Macron had hoped that by introducing a more inclusive, participatory style of governing he could take some of the anger out of the Yellow Vest movement. In an open letter to the French citizenry on Sunday, Macron listed 35 questions to be put to a “grand national debate” and said he hoped as many citizens as possible would participate in town hall-style gatherings across the country.

“We won’t agree on everything, that’s normal, that’s democracy,” he said in his letter. “But at least we’ll show we are a people who are not afraid to talk, exchange and debate.”

The meeting in Grand Bourgtheroulde kicked off two months of public consultations in towns and villages across the country on four main themes: taxation, France’s transition to a low-carbon economy, democracy and citizenship, and the functioning of the state and public services.

Following the two-month debate Macron said he would come up with a “new contract for the nation”.

>> ‘Yellow Vests’ open a new front in the battle: Popular referendums

Security was tight for his visit to Grand Bourgtheroulde, a town of 3,500 people that lies about 30 kilometres from the city of Rouen and where a Yellow Vest demonstration ended in clashes with police on Saturday.

Many Yellow Vests and opposition politicians have reacted sceptically to Macron’s initiative, however, calling it a smoke-and-mirrors attempt to sap the strength of their movement.

They cite the Macron government’s refusal to consider bringing back a controversial “wealth tax” on high earners as proof that it has already decided the outcome of the dialogue.

Analysts and many in Macron’s own party fear the public consultations will spur a cascade of nebulous demands or calls for the repeal of longstanding laws, such as those that abolished the death penalty or allowed gay marriage.

An Elabe poll released Tuesday showed the French feel lukewarm about the national debate, with 40 percent saying they intend to participate but 66 percent saying they did not think it would end the Yellow Vest unrest.

The task of organising the forums has fallen to local government minister Sébastien Lecornu and junior environment minister Emmanuelle Wargon. Five independent auditors will be appointed to ensure the debates remain free of government interference.

The Yellow Vest protests began in mid-November over a proposed fuel tax increase that would have unfairly penalised farmers and rural or small-town inhabitants who depend on their cars for transport. Since then they have grown into a broader push to tackle income inequality and give citizens more of a say in government decision-making, including calls for introducing citizen-sponsored referendums.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)


Macron launches his ‘national debate’ with speech in Normandy

January 15, 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron will try to assuage the anger of Yellow Vest protesters and others as he launches his proposed “national debate” with a speech in the northern town of Grand Bourgtheroulde on Tuesday.

Macron hopes that by introducing a more inclusive, participatory style of governing he can take some of the anger out of the Yellow Vest movement. In an open letter to the French citizenry on Sunday, Macron listed more than 30 questions to be put to a “grand national debate” and said he hoped as many citizens as possible would participate in Town Hall-style gatherings across the country.

Ludovic Marin, AFP | File photo of French President Emmanuel Macron at the Élysée Palace, Paris.

“We won’t agree on everything, that’s normal, that’s democracy,” he said in his letter. “But at least we’ll show we are a people who are not afraid to talk, exchange and debate.”

Click on the player above to watch Macron’s remarks live.



Yellow Vests: Macron to kick-off ‘grand debate’ in Normandy

January 15, 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron heads to the northern town of Grand Bourgtheroulde in Normandy on Tuesday to launch a three-month national debate aimed at defusing tensions with Yellow Vest protesters.

Ludovic Marin, REUTERS | French President Emmanuel Macron sits next to representatives of the French Association of Rural Mayors (AMRF) in Paris on January 14, 2019.

The small town of 3,500 inhabitants is the first of many stops Macron will make across the country between now and the end of the debate on March 15.

He is expected to give a speech at around 3pm local time (GMT +1), after which he will meet with 600 mayors and local officials from Normandy to discuss their constituents’ grievances.

Macron will be joined by Local Government Minister Sébastien Lecornu and Junior Environment Minister Emmanuelle Wargon, who were tasked on Monday with leading the debate after their predecessor resigned last week following controversy over her salary.

Yellow Vest protesters and unions have called for demonstrations at the debate, which will be held under tight security. Authorities have issued a ban on traffic in the area and access is restricted to residents and local workers only.

While supporters have hailed Macron’s initiative as an “unprecedented” exercise in democracy, some political commentators have warned it is fraught with risk.

“If he messes this step up, the damage, for him and the rest of the country, will be considerable,” journalist Jean-Marcel Bouguereau wrote in regional newspaper La République des Pyrénées.

Macron announced plans to hold the national debate in December as part of a string of concessions to Yellow Vest demonstrators. The movement, which began in protest against a direct tax on diesel fuel, has since coalesced into a broader opposition of the president’s economic policies.


Macron responds to ‘yellow vests’ with call for national ‘debate’

January 14, 2019

French President Emmanuel Macron penned a letter calling on citizens to turn “anger into solutions.” Far-right politician Marine Le Pen accused Macron of “blindness” in his handling of the “yellow vest” rallies.

Macron gestures with both hands during a January speech in Paris (picture-alliance/dpa/O. Corsan)

In a lengthy letter to the nation, French President Emmanuel Macron has asked citizens to give their opinions on government policies as part of a nation-wide debate after months of “yellow vest” protests.

Citizens of France would be asked to discuss issues such as cutting taxes and public spending, the use of referendums and immigration quotas.

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Marine Le Pen accused Macron of “blindness” in his handling of the “yellow vest” rallies

“I intend to transform anger into solutions,” Macron said in the letter published late on Sunday.

Police use tear gas on protesters at the Place de l'Opera in Paris on December 15.

‘Yellow Vest’ protesters gather in Bercy, in front of the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance, in Paris, on January 12, 2019. AFP photo

“Your proposals will help build a new contract for the nation, organizing the actions of the government and parliament, but also France’s positions at the European and international levels,” he said.

Read moreEmmanuel Macron and the ‘yellow vests’: Can they cooperate?

The document also says that Macron would attend town hall meetings across the country, with the first one set for Tuesday in the northwest town of Bourgtheroulde. He vowed to report on the results after the consultations end on March 15.

Protesters gather December 15 at Place de l'Opera in Paris.

While he said that no issues are “forbidden” in the debate, Macron also said he would not backtrack on some of his government’s unpopular measures, such as scrapping a wealth tax.

Le Pen: Time to beat Macron

For the last nine weeks, “yellow vest” protesters have rallied against Macron’s perceived elitism and government policies that they say favor the rich. In response, Macron approved a €10 billion ($11.5 billion) package of welfare increases in an attempt to appease the protesters.

On Sunday, Macron’s far-right rival, National Rally (RN) leader Marine Le Pen, accused him of “blindness” and “intransigence” in his handling of the unrest.

“The moment of the big political changeover has come,” Le Pen said while launching her party’s campaign for the upcoming European Parliament elections.

Emmanuel Macron

Mr Macron has faced intense criticism in recent months (Image: GETTY)

Speaking at a RN conference in Paris, she urged some 2,000 supporters to seize the chance to “beat” Macron at the May vote.

dj/amp (dpa, AFP, Reuters, AP)

French police brace for ninth ‘yellow vest’ weekend protests

January 12, 2019

Across France, 80,000 police officers are being mobilized for the ninth weekend of nationwide street protests. President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a three-month public debate have done little to assuage anger.

A man takes a picture of a mural by street artist PBOY depicting Yellow Vests (gilets jaunes) protestors inspired by La Liberte guidant le Peuple painting in Paris on January 8, 2019 (Getty Images/AFP/PBOY/Foto: P. Lopez)

More than 5,000 police officers are expected to be on the streets of the French capital on Saturday to monitor the ninth weekend of street protests by the “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) movement.

National police chief Eric Morvan told France Inter radio that he expected turnout nationwide to be similar to protests in mid-December, when more than 60,000 took to the streets across the country.

The protests, named after the high-visibility jackets French drivers carry in their cars, have repeatedly witnessed clashes between demonstrators and police since they began in November in response to a fuel tax hike.

A small town in France

The town of Bourges in central France became the center of attention before the weekend kicked off after one of the yellow vest organizers told followers on Facebook the town was easy to reach and had a small police presence. By Friday evening, 3,000 people had indicated that they would be heading for Bourges, with a further 13,000 saying they were interested.

Prefect Catherine Ferrier banned gatherings in the town center in response. “It has nothing to do with previous peaceful marches that took place in the city of Bourges,” Ferrier stated.

Préfet du Cher


[12/01/2019] Arrêté pris par C. FERRIER @Prefet18 interdisant toute manifestation à l’intérieur du centre-ville de Bourges (voir plan annexe).

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Bourges’ mayor, Pascal Blanc, has ordered traffic be restricted in the city center and the city hall and museums to be closed on Saturday.

Warning against violence

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner warned peaceful protesters that they would be “complicit” if they attended marches that turned violent.

New laws, including a register of rioters  similar to those used to control football hooligans, are being planned.

However, without a central leadership or decision-making body, protesters might not concentrate in Bourges. Last month, a protest apparently planned for Versailles was quickly relocated to central Paris.

A gilets jaunes protest in Paris last weekendA gilets jaunes protest in Paris last weekend

Call for public debate

Meanwhile, President Macron’s “great national debate” of town hall meetings is scheduled to start on Tuesday. Macron suggested the idea as a solution to complaints that citizens lack a say in debating and setting the political agenda. 

Ecological transition, public finances, democracy, and the state’s organization are intended to be the main themes of the consultations and, in a practice dating back to before the French Revolution, “grievance notebooks” have been placed in town halls for citizens to make complaints or suggestions.

But the initiative has already run into trouble after it was reported that the head of the national debates commission, Chantal Jouanno, was being paid €14,666 ($16,820) per month. She withdrew her participation, leaving the government to reorganize the discussions.

Sign for a motorway in ParisMotorway tolls in France can be too expensive for some workers

The outlook for the debates appears dim, with polling suggesting many people are uninterested in taking part in the town hall meetings or skeptical of how useful they will be.

Since November, protesters’ grievances have broadened beyond the fuel tax increase, which Macron eventually cancelled, to include the president’s alleged elitism and the precarious living standards for many people across the country.

France vows severe crackdown on Yellow Vest protests Saturday — Promising zero tolerance for violence

January 12, 2019

France braced for a fresh round of ‘yellow vest’ protests across the country on Saturday, with the authorities promising zero tolerance for violence after weekly scenes of rioting and vandalism in Paris and other cities over the past two months.

Officials have warned they expect this weekend’s anti-government demonstrations to be bigger and more violent than a week ago, as a movement which had shown signs of fatigue appeared to gain new momentum.

Abdul Abeissa, AFP | “Week after week, we are seeing a drift towards increasingly violent behaviour,” said Paris police chief Michel Delpuech.

Armoured vehicles and 5,000 officers will be deployed in Paris, where images of burning cars, smashed shops and daylong clashes between protesters and police have made global headlines since November.

“Blue-chip companies, the media, are all in Paris, we’ll be more visible,” Arnaud, a 48-year-old yellow vest organiser for the Seine-et-Marne region near the capital, told AFP.

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Others have called on protesters to converge on the central city of Bourges, which could potentially attract more people from cities farther from Paris.

“I hope that in a city where there’s been no incidents since the start of the movement, the mobilisation will be strong and peaceful,” one of the organisers said, asking for anonymity.

A woman passes by a mural by street artist PBOY depicting Yellow Vest (gilets jaunes) protestors inspired by a painting by Eugene Delacroix, “La Liberte guidant le Peuple” (Liberty Leading the People), in Paris, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. French President Emmanuel Macron is facing a mountain of challenges in the new year starting with yellow vest protesters who are back in the streets to show their anger against high taxes and his pro-business policies that they see as favoring the wealthy rather than the working class. (Christophe Ena/Associated Press)

But Bourges city officials weren’t taking any chances, outlawing all gatherings in the historic city centre, removing parking metres, benches and other urban furniture, and closing public buildings and gardens.

Mayor Pascal Blanc told AFP that residents were « worried, » with banks and other businesses boarding up windows.

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Nationwide some 80,000 security forces will be on hand.

‘Tempted by violence’

It was unclear if the Paris protests would again focus on the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe, or begin in the La Defense business district west of the city.

The city’s chamber of commerce estimates that nearly 500 shops have been damaged since the protests began, and many shops are likely to be boarded up and closed again on Saturday.

Paris police chief Michel Delpuech said he expected demonstrators to surpass the roughly 3,500 that attempted to march on the National Assembly last week, and predicted they would be “more tempted by violence”.

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“Those who are calling to demonstrate tomorrow know there will be violence, and therefore they are in part responsible,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said in a Facebook interview Friday with Brut, a digital news site favoured by many yellow vests.

“Those who think that, a few thousand people, can make us question our institutions, are wrong,” Castaner added later Friday.

Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, who has presented her party as the longstanding expression of many yellow vest demands, condemned the government’s reaction as “disturbing”.

“To accuse all protesters of ‘complicity’ with the thugs: here is a new verbal provocation and legal ineptitude waiting to undermine our rule of law,” she wrote on Twitter.

Last Saturday around 50,000 people wearing the movement’s trademark high-visibility vests took part in protests nationwide, though that was far below the nearly 300,000 that turned out for the inaugural protest in mid-November.

But authorities have vowed to crack down on the violence that has marred the demonstrations, which began over high fuel taxes but ballooned into a wholesale rejection of President Emmanuel Macron and his policies.

Last week demonstrators rammed a forklift truck into the doors of the ministry of government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux, while a former professional boxer battered two police officers, in scenes widely spread on social media.

‘A real debate’

Macron has called for a national debate on voters’ grievances, beginning next week, hoping to sate demands for more of a say in national law-making and tamp down the protesters’ anger.

But the process risks being hobbled by record levels of distrust towards politicians and representatives of the state.

Image result for Macron, paris, pictures, january 2019

France’s President Macron

A poll by the respected Cevipof political sciences institute released Friday showed 77 percent of respondents thought politicians inspired “distrust”, “disgust” or “boredom”.

And it’s uncertain if the public consultations will be enough, with many protesters calling for Macron’s resignation or an immediate referendum on his presidency.

“I had some hope with this ‘great debate’, but it’s not looking good because they don’t want to talk about taxes, and they’re the ones who are deciding the subjects,” said Patrick Lerest, a 62-year-old protester in Nemours, southeast of Paris.

“I want us to have a real debate,” he said.


Hungary’s Viktor Orban pushes for anti-migrant bloc to counter France and Germany

January 10, 2019

Hungary’s Viktor Orban hopes a right-wing alliance can help gain an anti-migrant majority in the European Parliament. The alliance was pitched by Italy’s Matteo Salvini, who Orban described as a “hero.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (picture-alliance/Anadolu Agency/D. Aydemir)

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday pledged his full support for an Italian-Polish initiative to form a right-wing alliance for European Parliament elections due in May.

Orban said Hungary’s goal was to gain an anti-immigrant majority in the European Parliament that he hoped would spread to the European Commission, and later, as national elections change the EU’s political landscape.

Read more: Is Viktor Orban the EU’s hard-line hero or villain?

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said during a visit to Warsaw on Wednesday that Italy and Poland should join forces in a eurosceptic alliance, expressing hopes that an “Italian-Polish axis” would replace the current “French-German axis.”

“The Polish-Italian or Warsaw-Rome alliance is one of the greatest developments that this year could have started with,” Orban said, describing Salvini as a “hero” for stopping migration on Italy’s shores.

‘I must fight’ Macron

Orban spoke out against French President Emmanuel Macron, whom Orban described as the leader of pro-immigration policies in Europe.

“It is nothing personal, but a matter of our countries’ future,” Orban said of Macron. “If what he wants with regards to migration materializes in Europe, that would be bad for Hungary, therefore I must fight him.”

Read more: How the EU’s resettlement plan is failing to meet its goal

Orban also said he could not see any chance for a compromise with Germany. He said German politicians and media attack him and put excessive pressure on him to admit migrants.

He predicted that there would be two civilizations in Europe: One “that builds its future on a mixed Islamic and Christian coexistence” and another in Central Europe that would be only Christian.

Orban won a third consecutive term in April, following a campaign that focused on anti-immigration policies, as the continent’s voters increasingly respond to populist agendas.

Poland wary of Salvini

While Salvini on Wednesday said he and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Poland’s ruling party leader, agreed on most issues, Polish officials appeared to have some reservations at the prospect of forming an alliance with Salvini, who is seen in Poland as too friendly to Russia.

Polen Matteo Salvini bei Joachim Brudzinski (Imago/Forum/M. Dyjuk)

Salvini with Poland’s Joachim Brudzinski

Polish lawmaker Witold Waszczykowski, a former foreign minister, said “the only arrangements that have been made concern further meetings and further consultations, but there are no arrangements for a deal, a creation in advance of alliances or common clubs in the European Parliament.”

Read more: Visegrad represents Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians and Poles

A leading commentator for the Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper, Michal Szuldrzynski, said he believed Salvini heard more about what divides Italy’s League and Poland’s Law and Justice party than what unites them during his visit.

“Kaczynski showed that he doesn’t want to be a part of a euroskeptic alliance under the patronage of the Kremlin,” Szuldrzynski wrote in Thursday’s paper.

law/sms (AP, Reuters)