Macron’s Energy Policy Speech Fails to Defuse Anger; More Protests Planned

By Fayçal Benhassain | November 28, 2018 | 5:03pm EST
Protesters wearing masks and yellow vests protest against rising fuel prices on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on November 24, 2018. (Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)

Paris ( – Organizers of fuel price protests that have roiled France for almost a month expressed disappointment and frustration after an energy policy speech by President Emmanuel Macron, saying it failed to address their grievances and vowing to continue demonstrating.

Members of the so-called “yellow vest” campaign are planning another big protest in Paris on Saturday, to demonstrate to Macron that they view his response as unsatisfactory. Labor unions are planning to take part too.

The movement, named for the high-visibility yellow jackets worn by the protesters, is becoming more organized, choosing representatives across the country.

“We expect respect,” Laetitia Dewalle, leader of the movement in a region near Paris told French television. “President Macron is too haughty and contemptuous.”

The protests were first sparked by a rise in fuel prices – an increase in the tax on petroleum products was announced in September, and further increases are due each year until 2022 – but the campaign has widened to focus on high taxes, a loss of purchasing power, and demands for an increase in the minimum wage (currently around $1,690 a month, for those working a 35-hour week.)

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has offered to meet protest leaders to talk about their grievances but also warned that the government policy, part of a plan to move France away from fossil fuels, would not change.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, Macron laid out an energy policy for the next 10 to 20 years designed to transition to renewable energy, but critics said he did not address the issues driving the protest.

One protester in eastern France said on television Macron was sending everyone to sleep by speaking about the environment.

“Everybody is for ecology, who can be against it?” he asked. “But it does not bring any solution for the average classes and the poor.”

The protestors were not alone in criticizing Macron’s speech, which also drew flak from unions and political parties across the spectrum – including from environmentally-minded groups.

Yannick Jadot, a member of the European Parliament representing a party called Europe Ecology – The Greens, said on Twitter Macron delivers great speeches but very small steps. He said one does not extinguish anger with fine words but without acts of social justice.

Eric Ciotti of the center-right Les Républicains said Macron offered no real solution to the problem of poor purchasing power, and all opposition parties said the speech lacked concrete solutions for low-income citizens.

The “yellow vests” movement includes construction and factory workers, temporary workers of all ages, and even retirees. They have been blocking roads and motorway entrances as well as toll booths, service stations and shopping centers.

The protests have come at a time when Macron’s approval ratings have been dropping. Opinion polls have found significant support for the protests from the French public.

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