Published On: Wed, Jan 9th, 2019

Macron MUST ‘LISTEN’ French humiliation as GERMANY makes shock yellow vests intervention


The yellow vest crisis – which started as a protest against fuel tax hikes and morphed into an anti-Macron rebellion – could mark a shift towards the extremes and boost populism. Asked to comment on France’s yellow vest crisis, Mr Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, told AFP Mr Macron, like all reformists, faces the tricky “question of social treatment,” and how to deal with the social impact of economic reform. He said: “I am fully in favour of reform projects… but these must be implemented in an inclusive manner, by involving the people [affected] more directly. This is an issue that we must respond to, at national and European level.”

Involving citizens in policy making and listening to their concerns is “crucial for the political future” of Europe, Mr Weber continued.

The German MEP also hailed the French centrist’s europhile credentials, saying that a France run by a pro-EU president was “good for Europe”.

Mr Weber also commented on the upcoming European Parliament elections in May, saying that the vote would pit those who say “yes” to more Europe against those who say “no”.

He said: “Too many extremists – both from the far-left and the far-right – are opposed to the idea of working together on the European level,” he said, citing France as an example.

“If you vote for [French far-right leader Marine] Le Pen, you will get more insecurity and uncertainty. Europe, however, promises certainty.”

May’s parliamentary elections are shaping up to be a battle between pro-Europe forces under the leadership of Mr Macron and populist, radical eurosceptics led by Mrs Le Pen and Italy’s Matteo Salvini.

An Ifop poll of voter intentions published in November – the most recent to date – showed Mrs Le Pen’s Rassemblement national (RN) party winning the most French seats in the European parliament, and moving ahead of Mr Macron’s La République en Marche for the first time.

Mr Macron, for his part, has been struggling to keep the lid on the biggest political crisis of his 20-month presidency, which has put his EU campaign plans on the back burner.

The yellow vest movement, named after the high-visibility jackets all French motorists must carry in their cars, started in mid-November as a peaceful protest against planned fuel tax hikes.

But the protests opened up a can of worms, and rapidly ballooned into a wider backlash against Mr Macron’s liberal economic policies and perceived indifference and elitism.

After eight weekends of protests, each more violent than the last – 10 people have died since the movement erupted –, the centrist government is still scrambling to come up with a cohesive response to end the unrest.

The demonstrations have become so unpredictable that on Tuesday, far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon suggested deploying “White Helmets,” or civil defence volunteers, to the country’s streets in the event of a ninth protest on Saturday to help “de-escalate tensions”.

The presence of “peaceful” White Helmets, he said in a video statement, will show that the French “do not condone violence”.

On Monday, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the government was working on legislation to toughen sanctions on undeclared rallies in response to worsening protest violence.

He also said the “casseurs,” or thugs, who have brought disruption and destruction to Paris and other big cities where shops have been looted and banks vandalised, would be forced to pay for the damage they cause.

“We need to preserve the right to demonstrate in France, but we must sanction those who break the law,” Mr Philippe told TF1 television.

He spoke after rioters torched motorbikes and set barricades ablaze on Paris’s upmarket Boulevard Saint-Germain last Saturday.

He said the new law – which could be introduced as soon as February – could be modelled on existing legislation against football hooligans, whereby violent individuals can be banned from stadiums.



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