France braces for trouble, President Macron plans to address ‘yellow vest’ anger
FRANCE hunkered down for another wave of potentially violent protests today as under-fire President Emmanuel Macron planned to address the nation next week over public anger at the cost of living, senior allies said.
Much of Paris will be in lockdown and tens of thousands of police deployed across the nation to contain what protesters are billing as “Act IV” to the “yellow vest” rebellion that has seen the worst unrest in the capital since 1968 student riots.
Navigating his biggest crisis since being elected, Mr Macron has left it largely to his prime minister, Edouard Philippe, to deal in public with the turmoil and offer concessions.
But the 40-year-old is under mounting pressure to speak more fully as his administration tries to regain the initiative following three weeks of unrest in the G7 nation.
“The President will speak early next week. I think this is what the French people want, they want answers,” Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne told Sud Radio yesterday.
“The President will send a message to the French that he is listening to their anger and that new answers have obviously to be found.”
Protesters want Mr Macron to go further on easing the budgets of hard-pressed households: an increase to the minimum wage is one demand. But the president, mindful of the country’s deficit and not wanting to flout EU rules, will have little wriggle room for more concessions.
Scrapping next year’s hikes to fuel taxes, the first major U-turn of his presidency, has already cost the Treasury four billion euros.
The Eiffel Tower, opera house, and Louvre are among dozens of museums and tourist sites that will close today.
Authorities have also ordered shut scores of luxury boutiques, restaurants and private businesses in the centre of Paris.
The protests, named after the high visibility vests French motorists carry in their cars, erupted in November due to the impact on family budgets of already raised fuel taxes. Protesters demand lower taxes, higher salaries, cheaper energy, better retirement provisions and even Mr Macron’s resignation.
A banner reads ‘Paris 3 fights’ at the Paris 3 New Sorbonne University campus on Thursday