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French prime minister confirms fuel tax suspensions, calls for calm

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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe gestures as he speaks at the French National Assembly in Paris, on December 4, 2018 during a session of questions to the Government. (Photo by FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP)

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced Tuesday new concessions to “yellow vest” protesters, including the suspension for six months of planned tax increases raising the price of fuel.

“No tax merits putting the unity of the nation in danger,” Philippe said in a televised address, adding that the anger on the streets “originates from a profound injustice: of not being able to live with dignity from one’s work”.

He also announced that increases in the cost of gas and electricity, also set to take effect from January 1, would be suspended for three months during the winter months.

Philippe added that a tightening of the technical assessment for cars, which was set to penalise heavily polluting older vehicles, would also be suspended for six months.

The measures are an attempt to take the heat out of anti-government protests by low-income people in small-town and rural France who have blocked roads and demonstrated for more than a fortnight.

Protests in Paris on Saturday degenerated into some of the worst violence in years in the capital, which saw more than 200 vehicles torched and the Arc de Triomphe vandalised.

Philippe said the protesters and the government shared the same objective — “that work pays” — and acknowledged that France had some of the highest taxes in Europe.

“If taxes fall, public spending must fall,” he said.

He repeated his earlier condemnation of the violence in Paris at the weekend and thanked France’s stretched security forces.

“If there is another day of protests, it must be declared in advance and must take place calmly,” he said.


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