03:06 GMT25 November 2020
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    In his New Year's address, the French president called on his countrymen to appreciate what they have and be patient until the effects of his reforms kick in.

    French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that his economic reforms, which sparked mass protests by a popular movement known as the "Yellow Vests", will go ahead regardless of the dissent.

    "We have lived through great rifts [this year] and a rising anger," the president said in his New Year's address, according to The Independent. "This anger tells us one thing: that we as nation are not resigned."

    "In recent years, we've engaged in a blatant denial of reality," he added, justifying the reforms. "We can't work less, earn more, cut taxes and increase spending."

    Speaking about the reforms, Macron underscored that their effects "cannot be immediate", but argued that "impatience cannot allow for any renunciation".

    "Ultraliberal and financial capitalism, too often guided by short term interests, is heading towards its demise," the president stated.

    According to the president, the people of France fail to appreciate the benefits they already enjoy.

    "We live in one of the world's greatest economies, our infrastructures are among the best in the world, we pay little or nothing towards our children's education, our healthcare costs are among the lowest of any developed country and give us access to some of the best doctors," Macron said.

    Talking about the protests, the president berated those who "take the pretext of speaking in the name of the people" in what France24 called a "thinly veiled jab at politicians who have sought to ride the 'Yellow Vest' wave."

    "They are only the mouthpieces of a hateful crowd," who attack "elected representatives, security forces, journalists, Jews, foreigners, homosexuals," he said.

    "[They] are quite simply the negation of France," the president added.

    Giving his speech from an unusual standing position — in contrast to him usually sitting behind his table — Macron downplayed the possibility of referenda on major policy decisions and the ousting of elected representatives, moves that the Yellow Vests are calling for.

    "The people is sovereign and it expresses itself at elections," he said. "We are a state under the rule of law."

    This year was a particularly bad one for Emmanuel Macron, who rode in on a wave of popularity after his election in 2017, and entered 2018 with an approval rating of approximately 40%; this had plunged to 20% by December.

    Macron had initially been blasted for tax cuts for employers and the wealthy, which immediately earned him the nickname "President of the Rich", the New York Times reports.

    Arguably the most powerful blow was the so-called Benalla Affair, in which Macron's bodyguard Alexandra Benalla was caught beating protesters on video. The scandal resurfaced with reports that Benalla had continued to travel on diplomatic passports and exchange messages with Macron long after his dismissal.

    Macron also lost two prominent ministers within a rather short time span. In August, popular Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot resigned abruptly, followed by Interior Minister Gérard Collomb.

    November saw the onset of the notorious Yellow Vests protests, initially prompted by rising fuel prices. They quickly evolved into a general protest against Macron's economic reforms and were accompanied by the destruction of state property, looting and traffic disruptions across France.


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    economic reforms, protest, speech, Yellow Vests, Emmanuel Macron, France
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