PARIS, French President Emmanuel Macron will hold a press conference on Thursday to address the conclusions of “The Great National Debate” he launched after several months of mass protests, his office said.
The protests began in November after a grass-roots movement labeled the “Yellow Vests” began demonstrating every Saturday in major French cities to call for lower taxes, more spending power for workers and low-income retirees and more taxation of the wealthy.
At the height of the protests, more than 280,000 people took to the streets across the country, but the number of participants in the “Yellow Vest” movement has declined sharply to between 30,000 and 50,000.
Macron quickly conceded to several Yellow Vest demands by canceling a fuel tax and giving better tax conditions to some retirees and he increased the minimum wage by 100 Euros per month.
Despite these concessions, some of the Yellow Vest movement continue to march and several demonstrations have ended in pitched battles with riot police, as the marches have been infiltrated by “Ultras” from the extreme left and right wings and by unaffiliated anarchists.
Thousands have been arrested and more than a dozen Yellow Vests died in unrelated accidents and incidents on their barricades, several of them run over by irate drivers blocked for several hours.
Macron subsequently launched his idea for “The Great National Debate” which took him to the four corners of France for many hours of meetings with citizens and local, elected officials.
“Complaints Registers” were also made available throughout France in local town and city halls so that people could ventilate their dissatisfaction and document their suggestions on how to improve their lives.
The French leader was forced to cancel a nationwide broadcast to address these issues on Monday night because of a sudden outbreak of a massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris.
He is expected to announce a series of concrete measures to address citizens’ concerns and inject some reforms and vitality into the system, all the while, seeking to improve the lives of the least well-off in France.
The Press Conference format will allow him to better explain his decisions and policy guidelines.
The President and the government hope it will go some way in quelling the discontent and halting the weekly protests, which marred the image of France’s tourism and cost more than EUR 200 million in damage, besides hundreds of injuries among protesters and police.
Source: Kuwait News Agency