Europe

Macron launches national debate to quell French anger

Move aimed at addressing long list of grievances by 'Yellow Vest' protesters

16.01.2019
Macron launches national debate to quell French anger

By Yusuf Ozcan

PARIS

French President Emmanuel Macron launched a national debate Tuesday in an effort to assuage growing anger by protesters over a long list of grievances.

The first round was held in the northern town of Grand Bourgtheroulde with 600 mayors.

The move to organize the two months of countrywide Town Hall-style gatherings is aimed at addressing the "Yellow Vest" protests, which began on Nov. 17 out of growing frustration over a controversial fuel tax hike but soon expanded into a broader movement against Macron.

Four main themes will be addressed: taxation, France’s transition to a low-carbon economy, democracy and citizenship, and the functioning of state and public services.

Macron asked the mayors to help organize the debates and offer solutions to the issues.

"For people in a difficult situation, we will try to make them take more responsibility," he said in an earlier speech in the town of Gasny.

"Because some are doing the right thing, and some are just messing around.”

Yellow Vest protests

The Yellow Vest protests quickly took on larger themes and spilled to other European countries.

Thousands of protesters wearing bright yellow vests -- dubbed the Yellow Vests -- initially gathered in major French cities, including Paris, to protest Macron's controversial fuel tax hike and the deteriorating economic situation.

Demonstrators held protests blocking roads and also the entrances and exits to gas stations and factories across the country. Police responded with teargas and water cannons.

The protesters, who generally live in rural areas due to high rents in the cities, demanded that Macron cut fuel taxes and ease their economic difficulties.

Under pressure, Macron announced a rise in the minimum wage and scuttled the tax hike.

Since then, however, the protests have grown into a broader movement aimed at tackling income inequality and are calling for giving citizens a stronger voice in government decision-making.

At least 10 people have died, more than 5,600 others have been detained and in excess of 1,700 others have been injured in the protests.

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