The carbon tax has been placed on standby and the ecological transition paused, all to try to calm the anger of the yellow vests. While Emmanuel Macron remains silent, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a “suspension” for six months of the three tax increases that had been scheduled, including a stop to the fuel price increases (which would have included the alignment of the taxes paid by truck drivers with the ones paid by the general population), a step back from stricter technical inspection requirements for automobiles, and a temporary halt, for the winter, to the price hikes for electricity and gas.
These new measures are trying to extinguish the spark that set off the revolt (the fuel price increases) and the coming price increases that might encourage it further (the hike in electricity and gas prices), in order to bring “peace and calm” after three Saturdays of quasi-civil war and another, fourth protest announced for Dec. 8.
Philippe has stated that this coming event will have to be officially declared in advance and will have to “take place calmly” (hinting that the police will change their repression tactics). The Interior Minister, Christian Castaner, has said that the police have “limitations” in what actions they can carry out, because they are a democratic institution—while the events in Paris have shown that some among the yellow vests do not share this attitude.
Over the following three months, there will be a large, decentralized national debate, aiming to arrive at a reconciliation between the conflicting demands of increasing purchasing power and ensuring the energy transition, and regarding the relationship between taxes and public spending. The government has stated that the moratorium on the tax increases will cost the state €2 billion, which will have to be found with cost cuts elsewhere, given that the deficit will definitely be kept under 3 percent, as Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire sought, rather inappropriately, to underline.
In short, everyone is unhappy. The environmentalists are protesting the abandonment of the carbon tax, while the PS claims that the rules on taxation are not fair if the tax on financial assets is not fully reintroduced. On his part, Mélenchon has written that “neither Macron nor Philippe have properly assessed this moment,” and that the government is just trying to get by until after the European elections.
Even Marine Le Pen accused Philippe of aiming at nothing more than to make it until the European elections. In turn, Philippe himself claims that the current situation is the result of the unwillingness to reform over the past decades, of which the political parties now in opposition are responsible.
The yellow vests are asking for more: a net tax cut, and, in addition, an increase in public services. Some go even further, questioning the country’s current democratic representatives, and, above all, Macron himself, whom they would like to see resign. Philippe’s proposals don’t seem likely to be able to lower the temperature of the conflict in France.
Indeed, those manning the roadblocks set up by the yellow vests seem to be rejecting these proposals. They have not managed, however, to agree on a representative delegation to meet the prime minister. Anyone who has tried to take up the role of a spokesperson for the movement has been subjected to insults and death threats on social media.
Nowadays, the protests have spread to high schools (focusing against the reform of the school leaving exam and of ParcourSup, the university entry system). The university students are preparing to join the protest as well: classes were suspended yesterday at the Sorbonne, while Tolbiac and Paris III will likely be shut down stating today. Football matches scheduled for Saturday have been suspended, and it is possible that the Climate March will not take place after all.
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