Europe holds its breath as Macron scrambles to quell protests

Europe holds its breath as Macron scrambles to quell protests

The Guardian reports:

Not just France but Europe should hope the tax concessions and minimum wage rise Emmanuel Macron announced on Monday will prove sufficient to quell more than a month of violent and destabilising anti-government protests.

With more than 1,250 people arrested, 400 injured and an economic cost running into billions, the gilets jaunes revolt represents a formidable challenge to the authority of the centrist president, widely seen by his critics as arrogant and out of touch. If he flunks the test, he will not be alone in paying a price.

Elected on a pledge to prove that France could be reformed – its flagging economy revitalised through tax and public spending cuts, plus sweeping changes to the labour market – Macron is also fervent in his defence of European liberal democracy.

Faced with a rising tide of rightwing, Eurosceptic populism and authoritarianism, he has presented himself as a champion of multilateralism and a bulwark against “selfish … and dangerous” nationalism, warning as recently as last month, on the centenary of the first world war armistice, that old demons were resurfacing.

His difficulties in appeasing a diverse, structureless, social media-based movement of France’s underpaid and over-taxed “can’t make ends meet”, whose many often contradictory demands range from a higher minimum wage and more direct democracy to lower taxes, a larger public sector and even a spell of military rule, have already prompted joy among those who do not share his internationalist views. [Continue reading…]

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