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What started on November 17 as a revolt against rising fuel taxes in France has now lasted six consecutive weekends and evolved into a full-blown rejection of the socioeconomic policies of French President Emmanuel Macron. Protestors targeting of stagnant wages, rising prices and taxes, high unemployment in rural areas, pension security, government spending on bureaucrats, university entry requirements, and other issues has yielded some concessions—such as a minimum wage increase—yet protestors remain positioned in traffic roundabouts, poised for protests into the new year.

  • In October, the government announced that effective January 1, 2019, gasoline prices would increase by 2.9 cents and diesel fuel by 6.5 cents, with an environmental tax on greenhouse gas emissions the primary component of the increases. The movement’s participants are mostly residents of small cities or rural areas who are affected disproportionately by rising fuel prices as passenger vehicles are the primary and/or only available transport option and fuel a significant component of their budgets.
  • The movement aims now to highlight the economic frustration and political distrust of poorer working families and has widespread support nationally. Protesters assert that the president and the parliament have not fully represented them or taken into account the interests of ordinary citizens.
  • Check out the RSS news feed at the end of the dashboard below for the latest headlines out of France.

Many outside France may wonder how far outside the norm the proposed fuel price adjustments are to trigger this level of outcry across France. And, why France? Are other European countries poised to follow?

  • An increase in the diesel tax in France is well within the realm of the expected: excise taxes on diesel have increased each January for at least the last five years. What makes France stand out is that its diesel price is among the highest in Europe and globally. France, along with Belgium, saw the most significant diesel tax increase over the last five years in Europe, which is twice as high as in third-ranked Portugal.
  • France’s approach to managing its commitments to climate change through fuel policies is not unique within the EU: Belgium, the Netherlands, Malta, and Portugal have followed a similar trajectory, although the diesel tax was unchanged or decreased over the last year in most European countries.
  • Increasing taxes are only one driver behind rising prices and thus should be a warning flag to other European leaders. In particular, volatility in global crude oil prices has caused painful fuel price increases (as well as relief as they fall, relief surely appreciated right now by President Macron). In October, the diesel price in France reached a peak of 1.53 euros per liter, representing a 20 percent increase since the start of the year.

In the new year, the world will watch as France's leaders negotiate policies to balance seemingly competing objectives to respond to the protestors' grievances and maintain the country's global leadership in pursuing an ecological transition. Read on below to discover the ins and outs of fuel prices and taxes of France and globally.

 

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