Major protests in France, Belgium over green taxes

In what has been described as the worst unrest in decades in Paris protesters in France are revolting against carbon tax (fuel tax) rises, and growing dissatisfaction with the Government and President Emmanuel Macron. Protests appear to be rising from both the left and right of politics.

Reuters: France’s Macron learns the hard way: green taxes carry political risks

When Emmanuel Macron rose to power, he put the environment at the heart of his agenda. Eighteen months later, anger over those policies has stoked protests that are a huge challenge for the French president.

Rioters torched cars and buildings in central Paris on Saturday following two weeks of protests caused partly by higher fuel taxes which Macron says are needed to fight climate change. Some protesters called for him to resign.

Macron’s plight illustrates a conundrum: How do political leaders’ introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without inflicting extra costs on voters that may damage their chances of re-election?

It is a question facing leaders across the world as delegates hold talks in the Polish city of Katowice this week to try to produce a “rule book” to flesh out details of the 2015 Paris Agreement on fighting climate change.

“Clearly, countries where inequalities are the highest are the ones where these kinds of push-backs are mostly likely,” Francois Gemenne, a specialist in environmental geopolitics at SciencesPo university in Paris, said of the political risks.

Naming Italy, the United States and Britain as countries where environmental moves could risk a voter backlash, he said: “I guess it’s one of the reasons why populist leaders tend to be very skeptical about climate change and environmental measures.”

Could anything like this happen in New Zealand. There has been some dissatisfaction over regional and excise fuel tax rises, and fuel prices rose to record levels, but the pressure was relieved when fuel prices dropped due to a slump in international oil prices.

In France Macron tells PM to hold talks after worst unrest in Paris for decades

French President Emmanuel Macron ordered his prime minister on Sunday to hold talks with political leaders and demonstrators, as he sought a way out of nationwide protests after rioters turned central Paris into a battle zone.

After a meeting with members of his government on Sunday, the French presidency said in a statement that the president had asked his interior minister to prepare security forces for future protests and his prime minister to hold talks with political party leaders and representatives of the protesters.

A French presidential source said Macron would not speak to the nation on Sunday despite calls for him to offer immediate concessions to demonstrators, and said the idea of imposing a state of emergency had not been discussed.

Arriving back from the G20 summit in Argentina, Macron had earlier rushed to the Arc de Triomphe, a revered monument and epicenter of Saturday’s clashes, where protesters had scrawled “Macron resign” and “The yellow vests will triumph”.

The “yellow vest” rebellion erupted out of nowhere on Nov. 17, with protesters blocking roads across France and impeding access to some shopping malls, fuel depots and airports. Violent groups from the far right and far left as well as youths from the suburbs infiltrated Saturday’s protests, the authorities said.

The riots in France are spreading.

UK Sunday Express BRUSSELS IN FLAMES: French riots spread to Belgium – HUNDREDS go on rampage at home of EU

Hundreds of activists made Belgium’s political landmarks their target, marching between landmarks amid clouds of smoke from firecrackers and smoke bombs, as they were stalked by dozens of baton-wielding riot officers ready to pounce.

Protesters descended on the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters, the heart of EU decision-making, as they created Belgium’s own ‘yellow jacket’ campaign against rising fuel prices and the cost of living. The EU Commission was forced to temporarily shut its doors as the building’s security guards refused to let anyone in or out while protesters marched passed.

The rises in fuel taxes have aggravated general frustration that had already been growing.

Football world cup – Belgium versus France

Belgium and France are now playing the first semi-final in the football world cup.

These are the top ranked teams to reach the semi-finals. Just prior to the tournament Belgium was ranked 3 and France 7.

I’m neither picking a winner nor backing either team. May the best team on the day win.

France, Belgium win world cup quarter finals

It probably wasn’t a surprise to see France beat Uruguay in a Football World Cup quarter final this morning, but it would have shocked many, especially in South America, when Belgium edged out cup favourites Brazil. Belgium led 2-0 until late in the game, and Brazil could only close up with one goal.

France has eliminated both Argentina and Uruguay, and with Brazil out too now there are no South American teams left in the running.

Tomorrow morning (NZ time) the other two quarter finals will be played:

  • Russia versus Croatia
  • Sweden versus England

Despite Germany crashing out early, and also Italy, Spain and Portugal, Europe is dominating this world cup.

Rankings prior to the cup starting:

Top 20 rankings as of 7 June 2018[1]
Rank Change Team Points
1 Steady  Germany 1558
2 Steady  Brazil 1431
3 Steady  Belgium 1298
4 Steady  Portugal 1274
5 Steady  Argentina 1241
6 Steady   Switzerland 1199
7 Steady  France 1198
8 Increase 2  Poland 1183
9 Steady  Chile 1135
10 Decrease 2  Spain 1126
11 Steady  Peru 1125
12 Steady  Denmark 1051
12 Increase 1  England 1051
14 Increase 3  Uruguay 1018
15 Steady  Mexico 989
16 Steady  Colombia 986
17 Increase 2  Netherlands 981
18 Increase 3  Wales 953
19 Increase 1  Italy 951
20 Decrease 2  Croatia 945
*Change from 17 May 2018
Complete rankings at FIFA.com

 

The Battle of Passchendaele

It is 100 years since The Battle of Passchendaele.

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Stuff: Passchendaele – 100 years since New Zealand’s darkest day of the First World War

“I died in hell (They called it Passchendaele),” is how the poet Seigfried Sassoon described the three month battle that left 500,000 casualties and became synonymous with the slaughter of the First World War.

It’s exactly 100 years since the name of the tiny Belgian village on the Western Front name became linked to New Zealand’s “darkest hour” of the 1914-18 conflict.

On October 12, 1917 an Allied attack on heavily-defended German lines snuffed out the lives of 845 Kiwi soldiers in a quagmire of liquid mud, barbed wire and machine guns. The total rises to 950 after soldiers succumbed to their wounds in the following days. Some 1860 were injured.

NZ History: New Zealand’s ‘blackest day’ at Passchendaele

Last year Missy wrote some posts about her visit to Ypres (which is near Passchendaele):

 

Bombs in Brussels

A reminder of the continual threat of terrorism in Europe with three reported bomb blasts in Brussels, with a current reported death toll of 34, and many more serious injuries.

There were two blasts at Zaventem Airport in Brussels, and one train was bombed at Malbeek Metro Station.

Around 35 killed in Brussels attacks claimed by IS

A series of explosions claimed by the Islamic State group ripped through Brussels airport and a metro train Tuesday, killing around 35 people in the latest attacks to bring bloody carnage to the heart of Europe.

Two huge blasts, at least one of which prosecutors said was likely caused by a suicide bomber, rocked the check-in hall at Zaventem Airport, strewing the scene with blood and mangled bodies and sending hundreds of terrified travellers fleeing in terror.

More than 200 people were wounded in Tuesday’s bloodshed, which came just four days after the dramatic arrest in Brussels of Salah Abdeslam — the prime suspect in the Paris attacks — after four months on the run.

An online news agency affiliated with IS said the group was behind the attacks.

“Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station in the centre of the Belgian capital Brussels, a country participating in the international coalition against the Islamic State,” the Aamaq news agency said.

I don’t think ISIS involvement has been confirmed yet.

Belgium had a close association with terror attacks in France last year.

This will raise the fear levels again. With travellers being targeted it will have an impact on tourism as well as on Belgium itself.