Though he acknowledged the widespread anger over fuel taxes, the French president said he would not back down from his environmentally friendly policies. He also announced that France will delay capping nuclear power.
French President Emmanuel Macron stuck to his guns regarding France's fuel taxes on Tuesday, saying he won't "change course" amid the country-wide "yellow vest" protests.
In a highly anticipated speech in Paris on energy strategy, Macron acknowledged the widespread anger regarding fuel taxes over the past 10 days but said he will continue making environmentally friendly policies.
"What I've taken from these last few days is that we shouldn't change course because it is the right one and necessary," he said. "We need to change how we work because a number of our citizens feel this policy course is imposed on them from above."
However, the French president said he understood that the increase in diesel tax, which kicked in just as prices were rising, inflicted more damage than anticipated. Macron said that fuel taxes would be adjusted to take account of sharp rises in world oil prices.
"We need to change how we work because a number of our citizens feel this policy course is imposed on them from above," he said.
'Won't give in to destruction and disorder'
Macron condemned the violence that has resulted from the protests, which have involved hundreds of thousands of people donning yellow vests carried in all French vehicles for use in case of a traffic accident or vehicle break-down.
"I understand the demands of these citizens, but I won't give in to those who want destruction and disorder," he said.
Two people have been killed and 606 people injured since the protests began, according to France's Interior Ministry.
The "yellow vest" movement sprang up spontaneously last month in response to hikes in car fuel taxes. About 300,000 people took part in a nationwide protest earlier this month, many obstructing highway exits, gas stations and traffic circles. Last week, 100,000 people continued the protest, including hundreds who gathered on the Champs-Elysees in Paris carrying signs that read "Macron, thief!" and "Macron, resign!"
Regional leaders had called for Macron to put off gas tax increases, saying in a column in news magazine L'Opinion the French president should have "the courage to take the time to rewrite" the ecological tax code "in a more socially acceptable, transparent and targeted way."
Delayed cap on nuclear energy
Macron also said France will move more slowly to limit the amount of energy it derives from nuclear energy, declaring that only the Fessenheim nuclear power plant will be closed before the end of the presidential mandate, which runs until 2022.
France, which draws 75 percent of its energy from 19 nuclear power plants, will shut down 14 nuclear reactors and reduce its share of nuclear power production to 50 percent by 2035, Macron said, adding that nuclear power will not be phased out entirely. Macron's predecessor, Francois Hollande, wanted to achieve a similar goal by 2025.
"I was not elected on a promise to exit nuclear power but to reduce the share of nuclear in our energy mix to 50 percent," he
As part of the nuclear policy, Macron said France would aim to broaden and bolster energy supplies by increasing the number of inter-connectors with neighboring countries. He also promised to develop renewable energy to replace nuclear power, saying his priority is to wane France's economy off of fuels that contribute to global warming.
dv/es (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)