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Macron vows to improve relations with angry French mayors

France's President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a meeting with French mayors at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France November 21, 2018.
France's President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a meeting with French mayors at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France November 21, 2018. Thibault Camus/Pool via REUTERS

French President Emmanuel Macron has promised more consultation with rural mayors who are angry over cuts to resources, as yellow vest, or gilets jaunes protests over fuel price rises continue this week.

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"I know that your job is not easy. That of the government is even more challenging," Macron told a room of 2,000 mayors, who gathered at the Elysee Palace Wednesday to hear his response to their concerns about spending cuts.

"We need to change the way we work," he told them, just hours after a meeting with the Association of Mayors of France (AMF), which has been very vocal about their opposition to Macron's plan to suppress the "habitation tax" by 2020.

Currently, the tax is paid by anyone who occupies a lodging, whether owner or tenant. Scrapping it will deprive local governments an annual budget of €20 billion.

Macron has promised to reimburse the habitation tax “to the last euro”. But the mayors want to know how he’s going to do it, and they are uneasy about the restructuring of the local tax system, to be unveiled next year.

The French president has uneasy relations with the Mayors' Association, made up of predominantly conservative politicians, whom he accuses of stirring up controversy and sowing division.

Nonetheless, he has vowed to "work together" with them on the habitation tax as well as on the mayors' General Operating Grant, two areas that have been a source of friction.

Macron furthermore insisted that from now on there would be more consultation with mayors before implementing new policies and procedures.

He has also vowed to attend next year's annual mayors' congress at the Porte de Versailles convention centre, where last year he was greeted with whistles and boos.

"There is no going back but (...) we can improve things. We must improve dialogue between us and enter into a real negotiation," he said.

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