PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron has postponed an important address to the nation that was to lay out his responses to the yellow vest crisis because of the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Macron was planning to announce on Monday evening a series of measures after three months of a national debate that encouraged ordinary people to propose changes to France’s economy and democracy.
Instead he headed to the scene of the fire.
The French presidency didn’t reschedule the speech yet.
When he does speak, Macron is expected to respond to protesters’ concerns over their loss of purchasing power with possible tax cuts and measures to help retirees and single parents.
Other proposed changes could affect France’s democratic rules. Some observers say Macron may open up the possibility that citizens could propose referendums.
The French leader has repeatedly said he won’t reintroduce a wealth tax on the country’s richest people — one of the protesters’ major demands.
The yellow vest movement, prompted by a fuel tax hike in November, has expanded into a broader revolt against Macron’s policies, which protesters see as favoring the rich and big businesses. Their protests, which often turned violent, especially in Paris, provoked a major domestic crisis that sent Macron’s popularity to record low levels.
Still, the number of demonstrators has been falling in recent weeks.
Most yellow vests leaders have urged supporters not to take part in Macron’s national debate, saying they did not believe the government’s offer to listen to the French. Ingrid Levavasseur of the yellow vests published an open letter Monday called “M. President, don’t play the illusionist.” She demanded measures to boost purchasing power and maintain public services.
Macron has already made concessions, but they failed to extinguish the anger of the yellow vest movement. In December, he abandoned the fuel tax hike, scrapped a tax increase for retirees and introduced a 100-euro ($113) monthly bonus to increase the minimum wage, a package estimated at 10 billion euros ($11.5 billion).
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