Tuesday 17 September 2019

French PM to announce delay to fuel tax hikes following riots – reports

The move is expected to appease an increasingly radical protest movement.

An ambulance worker holds a flare as he and his fellows block the Place de la Concorde in Paris (AP)
An ambulance worker holds a flare as he and his fellows block the Place de la Concorde in Paris (AP)

By Samuel Petrequin

French prime minister Edouard Philippe is to announce a suspension of fuel tax hikes in an effort to appease an increasingly radicalised protest movement, according to French media.

Both Le Monde newspaper and France Info radio said the planned increase, which has provoked riots, will be suspended for several months.

Mr Philippe is also expected to announce other measures aimed at easing tensions.

The prime minister is expected to announce the move later.

A woman takes a snapshot of charred cars the day after a demonstration, near the Arc de Triomphe (AP)

The move comes just three weeks after Mr Philippe claimed that the French government would not change course and remains determined to help wean consumers off polluting fossils fuels.

It is unlikely Mr Philippe’s announcement to MPs will put an end to the road blockades and demonstrations, with more protests possible this weekend in Paris.

“It’s a first step, but we will not settle for a crumb,” said Benjamin Cauchy, one of the leaders of the protests.

After a third consecutive weekend of clashes in Paris led by protesters wearing distinctive yellow traffic vests, Mr Philippe held crisis talks with representatives of major political parties on Monday. He also met with French president Emmanuel Macron and other ministers in order to find a quick solution to the crisis.

A worker cleans graffiti reading ‘Macron resignation’ on the Arc de Triomphe (AP)

Facing the most serious street protests since his election in May 2017, Mr Macron has cancelled a two-day trip to Serbia to stay in France this week.

More than 100 people were injured in the French capital and 412 arrested over the weekend during France’s worst urban rioting in years, with dozens of cars torched.

The protests began last month with motorists upset over the fuel tax hike, but have grown to encompass a range of complaints, with protesters claiming that Mr Macron’s government does not care about the problems of ordinary people.

The planned new tax was to increase petrol prices by 4 euro cents per litre from January next year. Petrol currently costs about 1.42 euro (£1.20) a litre in Paris, slightly more than diesel.

Since the movement kicked off on November 17, three people have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes or accidents stemming from the protests.

Over the past three weeks, protesters have been setting up road blockades across the country, and their movement has garnered wide public support.

PA Media

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