Emmanuel Macron says the 'legitimate anger' of the 'yellow vest' protests led him to raise the minimum wage and cut taxes

LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty ImagesFrench President Emmanuel Macron

  • Emmanuel Macron addressed the “yellow vests” protests Monday in his first public address in more than a week.
  • He denounced the movement’s violence but acknowledged the “legitimate anger” about economic malaise behind it.
  • Macron promised to increase the minimum wage by 100 euros starting in 2019 and rolled back a tax on pensioners.

French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the “yellow vests” protests roiling throughout France in a prerecorded speech broadcast Monday.

The remarks were Macron’s first public acknowledgement of the protests in more than a week. The “yellow vests” or “des gilets jaunes” protests first began in November to rally against a tax on diesel fuel. But they continued through Saturday – even after Macron called off the tax – to draw attention to low wages, rising costs of living, and unemployment among young people in France.

Macron acknowledged the “legitimate anger and indignation” about economic malaise behind the protests, but denounced the movement’s violence, which has left four people dead.

“This violence will benefit from no indulgence on our part,” he said, according to a translation from France 24.

Read more: Who are the ‘Yellow Vests’ protesting across France and rioting in Paris, and what do they want from Macron?

He said he personally took responsibility for not handling France’s economic conditions better and announced a series of additional tax and salary reforms he said he would push through parliament.

“My legitimacy is not based in a title or a party. My legitimacy comes from you, and from you alone,” he said. “I want this for France, because it is calling through history. It is always showing the way.”

Macron said the minimum wage would increase by 100 euros starting in 2019, that he would end taxes on overtime work, and that he would reduce or end taxes for some retirees. He also asked companies to give their workers end-of-year bonuses, which he said also wouldn’t be taxed.

“We want to build a France where people can live in a dignified way from their earnings. We have moved too slowly,” he said. “We want to build a France based on merit, hard work, where our children have a life better than us.”

However, Macron declined to modify France’s tax on the country’s top earners, saying that it might lead investors to leave to other countries. He pledged to double down on tax evasion instead.

In addition to the changes he announced, the French president said the country must still grapple with reforming its retirement and unemployment benefits systems to reward hard work. He also reiterated that the country’s policies must change to address climate change, which inspired his diesel tax in the first place, leading to a spat between him and US President Donald Trump.

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