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Macron to address nation as protests enter fourth week

French President Emmanuel Macron visits sites damages by Yellow Vest protests in Paris, 2 December 2018.
French President Emmanuel Macron visits sites damages by Yellow Vest protests in Paris, 2 December 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS

French President Emmanuel Macron will announce new measures on Monday evening in a new attempt to diffuse Yellow Vests protests that have wreaked havoc on France’s economy.

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It will be the first time Macron directly addresses the nation since the outbreak of nationwide demonstrations began on 17 November.

The president will speak on television at 8pm local time (1900 GMT).

The announcement came after a fourth straight Saturday of demonstrations around the country.

Protests began in opposition to a hike in fuel taxes before transforming into a general movement against the cost of living and the perception that Macron’s administration is arrogant and out of touch with the needs of ordinary people.

The government has since backed down on the fuel tax hike, but the announcements have done little to contain the demonstrations.

Officials said demonstrations in Paris had been less violent than the previous week, but had caused far worse property damage, and other cities including Bordeaux in the southwest were also hit by rioting.

Macron will also meet with business leaders and trade unions as well as the heads of the Senate and the National Assembly at the presidential palace throughout the day.

The government indicated the president would announce “immediate and concrete measures” to respond to protesters’ grievances and political allies suggested that would mean brining forward tax cuts already planned for a later date.

“Our mandate is to lower taxes,” said Stanislas Guerini, the new head of Macron’s political party The Republic on the Move.

“That is what we’re doing, but maybe we’re doing it too slowly, so maybe we need to speed up the suppression of taxes, to make them more concrete.”

Protests have also slowed down the economy through blockades of major highways and oil refineries.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire estimated Monday that France has lost 0.1 percent of growth from this quarter due to the protests.

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