Macron caves in to French protesters — too late, they say

A Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) protester with the words written of the back of her vest that read, ‘ Macron (referring to the French President) traitor, the people are hungry’ blocks the road leading to the Frontignan oil depot in the south of France, as they demonstrate against the rise in fuel prices and the cost of living. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2018
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Macron caves in to French protesters — too late, they say

  • The suspension will be accompanied by other measures aimed at calming two weeks of nationwide demonstrations by the protesters
  • Halting the fuel tax increase was one of the main demands listed by ‘yellow vest’ leaders

PARIS: The French government caved in after the worst riots in decades and delayed an increase in energy taxes Tuesday — but it was seen as “too little, too late” by many protesters whose anger seems increasingly focused on embattled President Emmanuel Macron. 
Demonstrators were back in the streets wearing their signature yellow vests. They blocked several fuel depots and, on a highway near the southern city of Aubagne, commandeered a toll booth to let motorists pass for free near a sign reading “Macron dictator.”
The protests began Nov. 17 with motorists upset over the fuel tax increase, but have grown to encompass a range of complaints — the stagnant economy, social injustice and France’ tax system, one of the highest in Europe — and some now call for the government to resign.
Last weekend, more than 130 people were injured and 412 arrested in rioting in the French capital. Shops were looted and cars torched in plush neighborhoods around the famed Champs-Elysees Avenue. The Arc de Triomphe was sprayed with graffiti and vandalized.
Four people have been killed, officials said, and more protests are planned for this weekend.
One unifying complaint among the leaderless protesters, who come from across the political and social spectrum, has been the anger at Macron and the perceived elitism of France’s aloof ruling class.
Since returning from the G20 summit in Argentina, Macron has either remained in his palace residence or else shied away from speaking publicly about the protests that have created his biggest political crisis since taking office last May.
It was Prime Minister Edouard Philippe who announced a six-month delay in the fuel tax increase that was to have begun in January. Just three weeks ago, Philippe had insisted the government would be steadfast in the tax plans aimed at weaning French consumers off fossil fuels. He also announced a freeze in electricity and natural gas prices until May.
“No tax is worth putting the nation’s unity in danger,” Philippe said in a live televised address.
Macron, for his part, visited a regional government headquarters that was torched by protesters, but he did not speak to reporters.
The government U-turn appeared to appease few of the protesters, who wear the yellow vests that France requires motorists to have in their vehicles in case of roadside emergencies.
“It’s a first step, but we will not settle for crumbs,” said Benjamin Cauchy, a self-proclaimed protest leader.
Another self-proclaimed leader Thierry Paul Valette told The Associated Press that protesters now are unhappy not just about the price of fuel but general discontent with economic inequality.
“It’s coming too late. ... I’m calling this government to resign,” Valette said.
Damien Abad, a lawmaker from the center-right Les Republicains party, also called it “too little, too late.”
“If your only response, Mr. Prime Minister, is the suspension of Macron’s fuel taxes, then you still haven’t realized the gravity of the situation,” Abad said. “What we are asking of you Mr. Prime Minister, is not a postponement. It’s a change of course.”
Protest and street violence has been a central part of France’s political culture — from the Revolution in the late 1700s to the student riots in 1968 — and the yellow vest movement reflects this tradition.
In the port city of Marseille, students clashed with police outside a high school — one of about 100 high schools around France that were blocked or otherwise disrupted by student protests, according to the Education Ministry. Many are protesting a new university application system.
Philippe held crisis talks with representatives of major political parties on Monday, and met with Macron, who canceled a two-day trip to Serbia.
“This violence must end,” Philippe said.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen tweeted that the delay in price increases was “obviously not up to the expectations of the French people struggling with precariousness,” and noted sarcastically that it is “surely a coincidence” that the rise in prices will take effect a few days after European Union elections.


Australia warns citizens ahead of expected Jerusalem move

Updated 18 min 32 sec ago
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Australia warns citizens ahead of expected Jerusalem move

  • Morrison is expected to stop short of actually shifting Australia’s diplomatic corps to the Holy City, amid warnings from his own officials about the cost and security implications
  • But the move still risks heightening unrest, both in Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation — and further afield

SYDNEY: Australia on Friday warned citizens to take care while traveling in neighboring Muslim-majority Indonesia, ahead of an expected but contentious move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce — as soon as Saturday — that his government will follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognize the contested city as Israel’s capital.
Scores of Australians preparing to jet off to Bali and other tropical island destinations for upcoming summer holidays should “exercise a high degree of caution,” the Department of Foreign Affairs warned.
Officials in Canberra told AFP they expected the announcement to come on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, but cautioned that events could yet alter those plans.
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Critics say declaring Jerusalem the capital of either inflames tensions and prejudges the outcome of final status peace talks.
Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv last May prompted tens of thousands of Palestinians to approach the heavily-protected Israeli border. At least 62 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire that day.
Morrison is expected to stop short of actually shifting Australia’s diplomatic corps to the Holy City, amid warnings from his own officials about the cost and security implications.
But recognizing Jerusalem would help the embattled Australian PM — who faces the prospect of an election drubbing next year — with Jewish and conservative Christian voters and win him friends in the White House.
His supporters argue Israel has the right to choose its own capital and peace talks are dead in the water, so there is no peace to prejudge.
But the move still risks heightening unrest, both in Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation — and further afield.
The Palestinian government would press for Arab and Muslim states to “withdraw their Ambassadors” and take some “meat and wheat” style “economic boycott measures” if the move went ahead, Palestinian ambassador to Australia Izzat Abdulhadi told AFP.
Indonesia’s government, facing domestic pressure at home, had reacted angrily earlier this year, when Morrison floated the idea of both recognizing Jerusalem and moving the Australian embassy there.
The issue has put the conclusion of a bilateral trade agreement on hold.
In the meantime, Australia’s foreign ministry has moved to prepare the ground.
“Demonstrations have been held in recent weeks around the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and the Australian Consulate-General in Surabaya,” it warned in a public notice Friday.
“Protests may continue at the Embassy in Jakarta or at any of Australia’s Consulates-General in Surabaya, Bali and Makassar,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said.”Exercise a high degree of caution.”
Tensions are currently running high between Israel and the Palestinians.
At least 235 Palestinians and two Israelis have died during violence in Gaza since March, mostly in border clashes.
On Thursday the Israeli army launched raids into the Palestinian city of Ramallah after a Palestinian shot dead two Israeli soldiers at a bus stop in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu vowed to ‘legalize’ thousands of settlements homes considered unlawfully-built even by Israel.
In total six people were killed in the most violent 24 hours to hit the West Bank and Jerusalem in months.