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France’s President Macron Suggests Tax-Free Bonuses, Overtime to Calm ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests

President Emmanuel Macron urged French companies to pay their workers a year-end bonus that won’t be taxed and ended levies on overtime as he sought to draw a line under the monthlong Yellow Vests crisis roiling France.

In a statement aired on French television and radio networks, Macron said his country is at a historic crossroads and acknowledged his share of responsibility for the anger on the streets.

“I feel in many ways that the anger of the Yellow Vests is right,” he said in his first public comments for more than a week. He said France is facing “a state of social and economic emergency.”

Elected for a five-year mandate with a majority in Parliament and no mid-term elections, Macron’s job should be safe for now. But his ability to continue with the ambitious program of reforms he’s set out will depend on how the public reacts to Monday night’s statement.

“He says that he is changing, but he mustn’t go back to his bad old habits in a few months time,” Alain Bouche, a representative of the Yellow Vests, said on BFM television.

The Yellow Vests movement started off with people wearing security vests from their cars to protest the fuel tax hikes planned for January. Then it moved onto social media and, as it gathered momentum, supporters began to block roads and fuel depots.

As the demonstrations gathered force, the demonstrators’ demands also shifted, becoming a broader backlash against sliding living standards and Macron himself.