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French President Macron Makes Concessions To 'Yellow Vest' Protesters


French President Emmanuel Macron has once again bowed under pressure from yellow-vested protesters. He first overturned the carbon tax on fuel that sparked the protests. Now he's announced more measures. From Paris, Jake Cigainero reports that Macron is hoping these moves help carve a path out of the biggest political crisis of his career.


JAKE CIGAINERO, BYLINE: Many yellow vest protesters were waiting to hear Macron say, I quit.



CIGAINERO: But instead, the president declared what he called a state of social and economic emergency. He began by condemning the violence seen at the yellow vest protests over the past month but acknowledged the frustration of the French, making a play for sincerity.


MACRON: (Speaking French).

CIGAINERO: "I take my responsibility," Macron says, "but if I have fought to shuffle the political system," the president continued, "it's because I believe more than anything in our country that I love." Macron unveiled a series of measures he hopes will appease protesters, including a raise in minimum wage the equivalent of $114 a month next year. Workers also won't be taxed on overtime pay or on their year-end bonuses. Macron encouraged employers to give bonuses as their way of helping to solve the social crisis in France.

French television showed yellow vests watching the president on small TVs. They were bundled up at their roadside camps around the country, waiting for the most anticipated speech of his presidency so far. One of the protesters, Alain Bouche, acknowledged the president had made concessions.

ALAIN BOUCHE: (Speaking French).

CIGAINERO: "I'm tempted to say finally," he said. Bouche said protesters will discuss if Macron's measures will be enough to stop the demonstrations. But his first reaction was, why did it take so long?

BOUCHE: (Speaking French).

CIGAINERO: "If they're proposing it now, the government could have done it weeks ago," he said. "So why did they wait until there was conflict and violence?" Macron ended by saying he would meet mayors region by region to chart a new program. Aside from the concessions Macron offered, what was noticeable was his change of tone. Unpopular in France for acting arrogant and speaking down to the people, today Macron was more humble and gentle in his tone of voice.


MACRON: (Speaking French).

CIGAINERO: Then he addressed an issue that has not come up on the long list of demands by the yellow vests. Macron said his government would take measures to control immigration in what appears to be an attempt to prevent the narrative from being hijacked by the far-right. The president ended by calling for national dialogue, saying he would meet mayors region by region.


MACRON: (Speaking French).

CIGAINERO: Macron says, "my only worry is for you. My only fight is for you. Our only battle is for France." For NPR News, I'm Jake Cigainero in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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