France's Macron vows to use 'all means' to restore calm

Tuesday, 11 Dec, 2018

In his first national address following two weekends of France's worst unrest for years, Macron sought to restore calm and struck a humble tone after accusations that his governing style and economic policies were fracturing the country.

"I could have made you think I didn't share your concerns, that my priorities were elsewhere", he said.

Mr Macron, who has until now kept a low profile during the protests, acknowledged that many people were unhappy with living conditions and felt they "had not been listened to".

"But their distress does not date from yesterday.it comes from very far, but it's there now".

"We are ready to make any gesture" that works, he said on RTL radio. Mr. Macron said the French street was expressing anger that had been pent up over the course of a 40-year socio-economic malaise.

The proposed measures also include annual bonuses for employees and exemptions from increased social security tax for pensioners earning less than 2,000 euros per month.

Political analyst Dominique Moisi said the important thing in Macron's speech was not only "what he said but the way he said it".

Mr Macron, a former banker, has previously been criticised for being out of touch and not listening to the struggles of ordinary people.

The "yellow vest" protests began as a movement against a rise in fuel taxes that Macron eventually abandoned, but have mushroomed to include a plethora of sometimes contradictory demands - increasingly including Macron's resignation.

The French leader immediately denounced the violence of the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) at the beginning of his speech, saying "The events of recent weeks in France and overseas have deeply troubled the nation".

The central bank on Monday halved its fourth-quarter growth forecast to just 0.2 per cent from 0.4 per cent - far below the 0.8 per cent growth needed to meet the government's full-year target of 1.7 per cent.

The demonstrations have since snowballed, leading to calls to topple Macron, whom the protesters accuse of favouring the rich.

"No anger justifies attacking a policeman (.) When violence breaks out, freedom ceases to be", he said.

"This time, there really is some progress".

Jeremy Clément, one "yellow vest" spokesman, said the proposals were a start and "coherent" but remained "crumbs".

"Everyone of his announcements was booed and the first overall reaction was "he thinks we are fools", Laveder added.

Union representatives say French President Emmanuel Macron gave no information about the measures he is going to announce in a televised address to the nation in the evening.

On social media, some observers applauded the extreme measures taken by the demonstrators and pointed out that Macron would have been able to ignore the demands of the Yellow Vests if they hadn't forced him to relent.