French President Emmanuel Macron is going to make some kind of announcement tomorrow evening in response to the “Yellow Vest” protests and riots going through the country. Via France24:
On Monday morning, he will meet with trade unions, employers’ organisations and local elected officials, as well as Senate President Gérard Larcher and National Assembly President Richard Ferrand, as he tries to formulate a response to an unstructured movement that has taken France by storm and broken through traditional political and trade union communication channels with the government.
Labour Minister Muriel Pénicaud said on LCI television that Macron would announce “concrete and immediate” measures, but that this would not include boosting the minimum wage.
“Increasing the minimum wage would destroy jobs. Many small business cannot afford it and risk going bankrupt,” she said.
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux warned against unrealistic expectations.
“Not all the problems of the yellow vest protesters will be solved by waving a magic wand,” he said.
France is already planning a “pause” on their gas tax, but John wrote yesterday the protests may be taking a bit of a leftward turn in demands. AFP noted there appears to be a wide variety of motives in the demonstrations – including those who own businesses and people who believe free markets are a problem.
Hubert Bertrand, 53, runs a small construction company — and says the tax and social security bills in France, among the highest in Europe, leave him unable to give his staff a pay rise.
“Our leaders are completely detached from reality,” he said at the Marseille protest.
“We should have entrepreneurs, shopkeepers and artisans running the country.”
He has abstained in recent elections, or else ruined his ballot.
“Misery is seeping out of Paris,” sang anti-capitalist activist Alice, who declined to give her last name, accompanied by a “citizen” brass band near the capital’s opera house.
“This isn’t a government problem, it’s a problem with a political system which is capitalist and liberal,” the 31-year-old said.
Her group was marching with a black and red anarchist flag and a banner which read: “Social justice or total war.”
Alice, who is from Aveyron in southern France and works as a summer camp coordinator, is not bothered by the fact that the “yellow vest” movement spans from the far-left to the far-right.
“We don’t care if you’re left or right,” she said. “The question is how to build a political movement for all citizens out of this. We need unions to call a general strike.”
It honestly seems like a team-up between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement with a variety of goals and solutions for what ails France. Just with more arrests, police beatings, violence, and destruction.
I’m not really sure how I feel about what’s going on in France. Protests and demonstrations are fine (even if I disagree with the motives and solutions) but violence and vandalism shouldn’t be encouraged. The law’s decision to have an overabundance of jackbooted officers carrying shields and riot gear is also disturbing, especially since it’s almost like they’re daring the protesters to lash out with violence.
Of course, the other issue is the fact the riots may end up hurting France more than helping – at least in the short term. Per France24:
The upheaval in the Christmas shopping season has dealt a heavy blow to retailing, tourism and manufacturing as road blocks disrupt supply chains.
On Saturday, the Eiffel Tower and several museums closed their doors for security reasons, as did top Paris department stores on what should have been a prime shopping weekend.
The protest movement will have “a severe impact” on the economy, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said as he toured a heavily looted central Paris neighbourhood.
“We must expect a new slowdown of economic growth at year-end,” he said.
In mid-November, the central bank had forecast 0.4 percent fourth-quarter growth. Economists said at that time that the economy would need to grow at 0.8 percent in the final three months to hit the government’s 1.7 percent annual growth forecast.
The riots could end up hurting in the long term if France enacts some sort of massive government spending program or raises the minimum wage.
Macron is definitely in a major spot, and it will be interesting what announcement he makes. One has to surmise whatever the proposal is it will anger one faction or another. The only question is how much more does France burn and will Macron survive the chaos?