PARIS: The French government, under pressure from weeks of “yellow vest” protests over rising living costs, on Wednesday scrapped all planned fuel tax hikes for 2019 and appealed for calm.
An increase scheduled for January 1, was “scrapped for the year 2019” in its entirety, Environment Minister Francois de Rugy announced on BFM TV, in an about-turn for the government.
The presidency, meanwhile, warned of possible violence during a new round of protests planned for Saturday in Paris and elsewhere in the country.
“We have reasons to fear major violence,” a source in the Elysee Palace told AFP amid calls for fresh mobilisation of the “yellow vests” movement already linked to four deaths and hundreds of injuries in often violent demonstrations.
The protests began on November 17 to oppose rising fuel taxes, but have ballooned into a broad challenge to French President Emmanuel Macron’s perceived pro-business agenda and complaints that he is out of touch with the struggles of ordinary people.
Demonstrators have blocked roads nationwide, playing havoc with traffic in the busy run-up to Christmas.
Last Saturday, rioters ran amok in the capital, torching some 200 cars, smashing shop windows, and vandalising the Arc de Triomphe, an iconic national monument.
Macron and his government appealed for calm Wednesday, and signalled they were ready to make further concessions to avoid more violence.