France. Several demonstrations and protests were carried
out during the year against President Emmanuel Macron and
the economic reforms he underwent during his first year in
On March 22, tens of thousands of French train drivers,
teachers and air traffic controllers went on strike; In
Paris, police and protesters hit and close to a third of the
flights departed and virtually all trains from the capital
were canceled. The reason for the protests and the strike is
that Macron wants to review the state railway and other
parts of the public sector, including cutting benefits for
the SNCF's 260,000 employees. The date of March 22 coincides
with the origin of the nationwide protests that led to the
student revolt in May 1968.
A new strike wave broke out in early April when the
railway began its strike, which according to the unions
would be carried out in a rolling schedule with two strike
days every five days for the next three months. According to
Countryaah.com, the reason
for the strike remained the same, President Macron's notices
of cuts in staff benefits at the state railway company SNCF.
At the same time, about 30% of flights were canceled on Air
France in a strike for better pay terms; for Air France,
this was the fifth strike since February.
In April, nearly 120,000 people around France
demonstrated against the president's public-sector reform
plans. It is mainly the proposed changes and cuts to the
state railway company SCNF that have prompted the left-wing
trade union CGT to call for demonstrations. However, several
studies indicate that the French are generally positive
about Macron's plans.
The First May demonstrations degenerated, as did the May
5 demonstrations, led by the Left Movement. In November, new
clashes occurred in Paris when 5,000 protesters, the
so-called Yellow West, and police clashed. The reason this
time was Macron's economic policy, including gasoline
prices. Police used tear gas to disperse protesters at the
Champs-Élysées. According to Interior Minister Christophe
Castaner, the protesters have been fired by Marine Le Pen
and the extreme right. Around the country, on November 24,
around 80,000 people demonstrated.
In an effort to appease the Yellow West, President Macron
announced in December that the increase in gasoline and
diesel prices would be halted throughout 2019. He also
promised to raise the minimum wage by 100 euros a month,
lower the tax for pensioners and cut taxes on overtime work.
One of the demands from the Yellow West, however, he did not
agree with: reintroducing the 2017 abolished wealth tax.
An agreement was signed in January between France and the
UK with the aim of strengthening border security between the
countries, especially since Calais, which has become a
bottleneck for migrants en route to the UK. The agreement
means that the UK pays £ 44.5 million (equivalent to almost
SEK 520 million), for fencing, surveillance cameras and
other surveillance technology in the port city of Calais. At
the same time, Britain's Foreign Minister Boris Johnson
raised the idea of a bridge over the English Channel on the
grounds that it was ridiculous that two of the world's
largest economies had only one railway line between them.
What is required is a bridge that is at least 35 kilometers
long. The Öresund link has a bridge section that is 7.8
In November, the government decided to extend border
controls against Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland,
Italy and Spain for another six months. It was after the
terrorist attacks in Paris 2015 that it was decided to
reintroduce border and ID checks.
President Emmanuel Macron stepped down in the government
in October and appointed three new ministers. The year had
so far been riddled with political scandals and declining
figures of opinion. Christophe Castaner, leader of the
Macron Party Republic on the road (La République en marche),
took over as Minister of the Interior after the departure of
Gérard Collomb. He had recently had to resign after trying
to darken an incident when one of Macron's security guards,
Alexandre Benalla, struck a man and a woman in a
demonstration train on May 1. New Minister of Culture became
Franck Riester, who replaced Françoise Nyssen, who resigned
due to tax fraud. Didier Guillaume took over the post of
Minister of Agriculture after Stéphane Travert.
Two French government members were accused during the
winter of sexual harassment and rape. First out was Budget
Minister Gérald Darmanin, who was charged with a rape that
should have happened in 2009. The 35-year-old Darmanin is
accused of forcing a former prostitute to have sex in
exchange for cleaning her name in a legal dispute. The
budget minister's lawyers accused the woman of wanting to
damage the minister's reputation and sued her for slander.
The second case concerns Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot,
who is accused of, among other things, harassing a young
woman in 1997.
A former president was also seen accused. Nicolas Sarkozy
was indicted in March for economic crime during the 2007
election campaign. These include corruption, illegal
financing and "secrecy of Libyan government money". Among
other things, Sarkozy has received EUR 50 million from the
then dictator Muammar al-Khadaffi.
At a congress in Lille in March, National Front leader
Marine Le Pen suggested that her party change its name to
the National Collection (Rassemblement National). She
justified that "the name National Front has a grand and
wonderful history [...] but for many French people it is a
psychological obstacle". The name change was approved by the
members and put into operation during the year.
An investigation into alleged rape by French UN soldiers
on children in the Central African Republic in 2013-14 was
closed in January. The reason was that there was no
evidence. It was the Swedish UN official Anders Kompass who
in 2014 revealed the abuses.
According to President Macron, France, Britain and the
United States attack on Syria in mid-April was not a
declaration of war against the Syrian regime. According to
him, the attack was legitimate, and in a speech he said that
Syria's "nuclear weapons production capacity has been
On December 11, four people were killed in Strasbourg and
several were injured when a man opened fire on a Christmas
market. The perpetrator, a radicalized Islamist, managed to
escape from the scene but was killed two days later in
connection with a police chase.
President Macron, during a speech to French bakers at the
Élysé Palace in January, called on UNESCO to put the
baguette on the World Heritage List of Intangible Cultural
Heritage. For example, the Neapolitan pizza was recently put
on that list.