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France

Breton anti-ecotax movement threatens more radical protests in spring

A Bonnets Rouges demonstration last month
A Bonnets Rouges demonstration last month AFP

Regional campaigners who blocked French roads and destroyed tax collection portals last year have promised "more radical" protests if the government does not scrap its controversial ecotax and give in to other demands.

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With more than 3,000 people in attendance, the first-ever conference of Brittany's Bonnets Rouges (Red Caps), who forced the government to put off but not scrap the ecotax by sometimes-violent demonstrations, presented 11 demands to the government and, in a gesture of defiance of France's centralised administration, called on President François Hollande to come to the region to hear their grievances.

The Bonnets Rouges, a movement that includes employers, farmers, fishermen and political activists, repeated their demand for the withdrawal of the ecotax and called for more decentralisation to bring decision-making to their relatively remote eastern region.

They also called for official recognition of regional languages, including Breton, development of infrastructure and the incorporation Loire-Atlantique, whose main town is Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's homebase of Nantes, into Brittany - a historic demand of Breton nationalism.

"If there is no response from the government or the president of the republic, obviously there will be a Bonnets Rouges spring, which will be much more radical," spokesperson Thierry Merret told the meeting.

"We have already succeeded in forcing the government to back down," said left-wing mayor Christian Troadac, the movement's best-known leader. ""Tomorrow, if needs be, we have 50,000 people in the streets."

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