French National Assembly okays Macron tax concessions to yellow vest protesters

The French National Assembly has given the green light to a package of emergency concessions announced by President Emmanuel Macron to end violent protests across the country.

The measures were introduced by Macron in a televised speech earlier this month to help cool weeks of anti-government protests, which first erupted last month in rural France among citizens who said they could not afford higher fuel taxes that was announced to minimize the country’s reliance on fossil fuels.

The demonstrations then transformed into a broader rebuke of Macron’s policies, and they took on a name of their own – the “yellow vest” movement, which is a reference to the vests worn by people active in the transportation industry, who have been at the forefront of the protests.

Macron, who acknowledged the protesters’ anger was “deep, and in many ways legitimate,” promised a minimum wage rise and tax concessions.

Macron bows to protesters’ demands, offers wage rise

The French president introduces emergency measures, including wage rises and tax exemptions, to appease “yellow vest” protesters.

The package, which included the removal of a planned tax increase for a majority of pensioners and tax-free overtime pay for all workers, was approved by the National Assembly on Friday.

According to economists, the cuts will cost up to 15 billion euros ($17 billion).

During a debate in the assembly, the labor minister Muriel Penicaud said the measures provide a “quick, strong and concrete response” to the crisis.

The concessions however, drew mixed reactions in the country. While some the “yellow vest” protesters and opposition groups called his remarks “nonsense,” “a charade,” “a bluff,” some others voiced satisfaction with his response to the protests.

The president told critics of the fuel tax hikes on Thursday that he has heard their voice and that “you’re right.”

He was referring to a petition signed by 1.15 million people, who suggested that there are several other ways to fight fossil fuel pollution than raising fuel tax.

“Your message, I heard it. I am responding to you directly, you are right,” Macron wrote to the people who signed the petition.

He reminded the petitioners that his government cancelled earlier this month, the planned increase in fuel tax and that no hikes in gas and electricity prices would be made during the winter.

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