President Emmanuel Macron in his New Year's Eve address said that the French government "can do better" at improving citizens' lives as "yellow vest" protesters again took to the streets across the country. "We can do better and must do better," Macron said in a 16-minute televised speech from the Elysee palace while urging the French to "accept the reality" that increased public spending was not the answer to their problems. Macron's speech had been keenly awaited, coming at the end of a torrid six weeks for the centrist, whose leadership has been severely rattled by six weeks of demonstrations that have repeatedly turned violent.
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On Monday, he attempted to turn the page on the crisis and start 2019 on an upbeat note. "I believe in us," he said. Macron took aim at the radical fringe of the yellow vests and their supporters on the far right and hard left, saying "some who claim to speak in the name of the people" merely acted as the "megaphones of a hate-filled crowd".
"Republican order will be ensured with no leniency," he vowed, listing "lawmakers, the security forces, journalists, Jews, foreigners, homosexuals" as being the objects of physical and verbal attacks.
"Let's stop running ourselves down and making believe that France is a country where solidarity doesn't exist." "We live in one of the biggest economies in the world, with some of the best infrastructure in the world, we pay little or nothing for our children's schooling and we are treated by excellent doctors at some of the lowest costs in the developed world," he said.
Earlier, In a bid to end the standoff, a visibly contrite Macron announced a package of measures on Monday in a televised address, estimated by economists to cost up to 15 billion euros (USD 17 billion). The 40-year-old former investment banker acknowledged widespread animosity towards him and came close to apologising for a series of verbal gaffes seen as dismissive of the poor or jobless.
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He cancelled planned fuel tax hikes for 2019, offered a rise in the minimum wage of 100 euros a month next year, as well as tax relief for many pensioners and tax-free overtime.
Some senior figures in the "yellow vest" movement, which has no official leaders and dozens of separate demands, had urged protesters to continue to press home their advantage.