Update: French PM renounces fuel tax rises

Latest: French Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe has announced a suspension on fuel tax hikes, after protesters took to rioting in the French capital and surrounding areas.

Following crisis talks in Paris today, the PM renounced the policy put forward by President Emmanuel Macron. He stated that the fuel increase will be suspended for six months.

“No tax is worth putting the nation’s unity in danger.”

French motorists began protesting the tax spike in mid-November, when leader Macron announced the price rise was a necessity to combat climate change. However, the protests took a violent turn when political protesters known as “Yellow Vests” began violent clashes with authorities.

The riots, which saw over 130,000 people take to the streets in protest saw major damage to multiple homes, cafes and stores throughout Paris has seen more than 400 arrests since the clashes began. Over 133 were injured, including 23 members of the French security forces.

The action took a sinister turn Saturday afternoon when an 80 year old woman was killed after being struck with a gas canister thrown during the troubles. The unnamed woman, who was at home at the time of the incident, was struck in the head whilst closing her shutters. The woman was taken to hospital but died in the operating theatre. Two more people have also been killed.

Macron and Philippe’s approval rating have hit a new low as the violence spread across Paris and the hope is the suspension of the tax increase eases tensions between protesters and the government.

Catalonia ‘won’t follow orders from Madrid’

Catalan leaders will defy orders from the Spanish government if Madrid attempts to reassert control of the region.

President Carles Puigdemont, leader of the Catalan Government, has triggered Article 155 of the constitution on Saturday in a move deemed ‘against the will of the Catalans’. With this unprecedented move, Rajoy has the ability to dissolve the powers of regional government officials and force elections.

Puigdemont has refused to halt his plans for independence following a referendum held recently. He insisted “no other court or political body” could strip him of his presidential powers.

Pro-independence leaders have said they will not accept central government’s decision and will meet on Thursday to decide a response.

This follows weeks of tension in the region. The dispute over the status of Catalonia has become unpredictable and many have taken to the streets in protest. After Catalan parliament enacted its own law with a vote on September 6th. This however was deemed illegal by President Puigdemont who warned the region against declaring independence.

Roser Vilavlana, a resident of Catalonia, spoke to EN4News about her experience. Referring to the support of police and officials in the region, she said: 

At the moment there is still a lot of social pressure because this has become a breach of freedom and human rights. So it’s difficult to imagine anyone not defending this. So if supporting the Spanish government means ignoring human rights and freedom then I think Catalan civil servants are going to follow the Catalan government.

Speaking about the situation on the ground, Vilavlana said:

Right now, it’s very tiring. It’s what you speak about at work, with your friends, you see the news. You go to demonstrations. You take all the specific actions you’re asked to do – voluntary, of course. It’s a mixture of rage and frustration, of feeling very small and weak, yet at the same time you feel very strong. You see when you unite with people all around you, and you do it in a pacifist way – but whilst being very firm and determined, you see there’s a power in there. It’s frustrating, but beautiful. We’re all one together.

Listen to the full interview with Roser below.

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