French government to suspend fuel tax hike after weeks of yellow vest unrest
Cars burn as protesters wearing yellow vests (gilets jaunes) clash with riot police near the Arc de Triomphe as part of a demonstration over high fuel prices on the Champs Elysee in Paris, France, Dec. 1, 2018. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT
Paris, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- The French government on Tuesday suspended its plans to hike fuel taxes following a huge public backlash that saw weeks of tense and violent protests as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators clad in fluorescent clothing blockaded roads across the nation and clashed with security forces in the capital.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe made the announcement in a televised speech following an emergency cabinet meeting called by President Emmanuel Macron to analyze the response to the so-called "gilet jaunes" (yellow vests) protests.
"I suspend, for a period of six months, these fiscal measures," Philippe said in an address. "They will not be applied until they have been debated by all concerned parties. During this time, we will identify how these measures can be brought into effect in a fair and effective manner," he added.
The PM said that all French citizens had the right to protest, as it was one of the pillars of the Republic, but condemned acts of violence that took place during the demonstrations.
"The government does not accept the violence that took place last Saturday against law enforcement, against national monuments, public buildings and businesses," he added.
The protest movement, named after the high visibility jackets worn by participants and mobilized largely through social media, grew quickly after Macron announced plans to raise taxes on diesel and gasoline, but turned sour in Paris over the weekend as violent clashes erupted with riot police.
Some protesters torched parked vehicles and vandalized shops, and police detained around 600 people nationwide.
French press has billed the unrest as Macron's greatest political test since taking office in May 2017.
Members of the gilet jaunes had been slated to meet with the PM later on Tuesday but the encounter was looking increasingly doubtful after some protesters threatened to block access to the talks.
Macron was forced to cancel a scheduled two-day visit to Serbia in a bid to find an end to the stand-off.
The fuel tax increase had been due to come into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.