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The Debate

Road rage: French 'yellow vests' movement protests fuel prices

A wave of protests is sweeping France and yes, you might quip: "What else is new?" This, after all, is a nation that prides itself on its long history of erecting barricades and defying the established order. But what started as a social media protest against rising fuel prices has snowballed into the yellow vests movement, with those blocking highways and byways wearing those signature hi-viz bibs that European motorists must keep at all times in their cars. What makes this different?


No government likes to hear the words "leaderless" and "movement" used in the same sentence. Who are the gilets jaunes? How are the president and his prime minister responding?

More broadly, how do you tax carbon emissions in a way that's doesn't unduly punish the little guy? And how does France's president address the seeming contradiction expressed across Europe between calls to lower taxes (see the new Italian budget) and those who want to save the environment, as witnessed by recent inroads by the Greens across the continent?

The biggest blow so far to Emmanuel Macron's presidency has arguably been the shock resignation of his popular environment minister Nicolas Hulot, who felt the interests of polluters were always getting the last word. How does that mesh with the yellow vests movement?

Produced by Charles WENTE, Laure FOURQUET and James VASINA.

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