Macron reveals long-awaited plans to appease Gilets Jaunes
On Thursday evening, Emmanuel Macron launched “a new act of the Republic,” in response to the five months of ‘Gilet Jaunes’ protests. Macron spoke in front of 200 journalists for more than two hours at the Élysée Palace. In his speech, Macron said he had listened and drawn conclusions from his three-month voter listening exercise, in which grievances were aired during thousands of town-hall style meetings.
Macron promised €5bn (£4.3bn) worth of cuts to income tax for lower and average earners as well as pension rises for the poorest and vowed no more schools or hospitals would be closed during his presidency. Despite his conciliatory tone, he rejected some of the major demands of protesters, including reinstating a tax on the wealthy, and making the democratic process more representative by holding citizen-led referendums.
A month before the European Parliament election, Europe played a prominent role in his address. Macron seemed to pass the responsibility for tackling climate change over to the EU, proposing an EU carbon tax, a carbon price floor and “more ambitious green finance” policy at the EU level. The Yellow Jackets protest movement, which has often led to violence, was largely spurred by the introduction of a national carbon tax, which Macron revoked a month into the protests.
In his first press conference in two years as president, Macron also expanded on his previous suggestion of “overhauling” the Schengen Area. This zone comprises of 26 European states that have officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their mutual borders. Macron suggested that countries which either refuse to take in refugees or that don’t enforce border controls shouldn’t be part of the border-free zone. “On the European level, we decided to have common borders … it not working anymore.”