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 power.
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, Paris is the capital city of France, a country located in Western Europe. 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 kilometers long.
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 destroyed.”
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.