World leader’s embarrassing backdown
Emmanuel Macron has declared a state of emergency and agreed to a range of economic concessions following weeks of violence in France.
The French President addressed the country this morning, seeking to placate "yellow vest" anti-government protesters who wreaked havoc in Paris at the weekend.
Speaking from the Presidential Elysee Palace, Mr Macron vowed to increase the minimum wage by 100 euros ($A158) per month, stop taxing overtime and decrease pension contributions from next year.
"We will respond to the economic and social urgency with strong measures, by cutting taxes more rapidly, by keeping our spending under control, but not with U-turns."
The European leader took responsibility for what he declared a "social and economic" state of emergency for the protests in the name of the "Yellow Vest" movement.
He admitted his style of leadership has "hurt" people, noting their "deep anger is fair". He also said he was partially responsible for fuelling the angry protests.
"I didn't forget what I said during my candidacy. I want our children in France to live better than we do," he said.
Mr Macron acknowledged "anger and indignation" among the public over the cost of living, but he also said "no indulgence" would be given to people behind the protest violence.
He said "no anger justifies" attacking police or looting stores, saying both threaten France's cherished liberty.
Macron dans son discours tu vois il a un sourire il se fout de notre gueule— 💑💍 (@kassandre_mrx) December 10, 2018
His speech came after thousands of protesters took over the streets of Paris wearing yellow vests, wreaking havoc on the city while calling on the French leader to resign.
On Sunday, workers in the capital and other cities swept up broken glass and towed away burnt-out cars amid a government warning of slower economic growth and the judiciary vowing to come down hard on looting and attacks on police.
On Saturday, protesters, for the fourth weekend in a row, threw stones, torched cars and vandalised shops and restaurants in a protest against Mr Macron's economic policies.
In one incident, police unleashed a water cannon on a group that was refusing to step away.
A total of 89,000 police and security forces were deployed around the country, with 8000 in Paris alone. A dozen tanks were also rolled through the city in an effort to keep people back.
The French cities of Marseilles and Bordeaux saw similar violent outbreaks.
Le Parisien newspaper hailed the speech as Macron's "moment of truth" on its cover yesterday, warning that if he failed to appease the anger, "France will enter a dangerous period of political instability".
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux warned against unrealistic expectations, saying it will take time before Mr Macron can address all the issues.
"Not all the problems of the yellow vest protesters will be solved by waving a magic wand," he said.
Demonstrators were unimpressed with the overtures, continuing their blockade of traffic roundabouts nationwide and vowing to fight on.
Mr Macron's last televised address was on November 27 when he said he wouldn't be bounced into changing policy by "thugs".
He since cancelled a rise in fuel taxes to try to defuse the situation but the protests have morphed into a broader anti-Macron rebellion.
The upheaval in the Christmas shopping season has dealt a heavy blow to retailing, tourism and manufacturing as road blocks disrupt supply chains.
On Saturday, the Eiffel Tower and several museums closed for security reasons, as did top Paris department stores on what should have been a prime shopping weekend.
The protest movement will have "a severe impact" on the economy, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said as he toured a heavily looted Paris neighbourhood.
"We must expect a new slowdown of economic growth at year-end," he said.
In mid-November, the central bank had forecast 0.4 per cent fourth-quarter growth. Economists said at the time the economy would need to grow at 0.8 per cent in the final three months to hit a 1.7 per cent annual growth forecast.
Authorities say 136,000 people took part in protests across France on Saturday, including 10,000 in Paris. More than 1709 were arrested. More than 100 remain in custody.
"We cannot let people think they can come to trash everything and then happily go back home without facing judicial sanctions," Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz told reporters.
Named after the fluorescent yellow safety vests French motorists must carry, the protests erupted on November 17.
- with wires