By Agence France-Presse
French police cleared “yellow vest” protesters from several occupied roads on Tuesday as President Emmanuel Macron looked to turn the page on more than a month of often violent anti-government protests.
Police removed protesters and makeshift wooden huts from roads and roundabouts in Normandy in the north, Brittany in the west and the central Burgundy region.
The operations early on Tuesday were carried out without any trouble, but violence was reported overnight Monday in the south of France where a motorway toll booth was set on fire near the town of Bandol.
Dozens of police have been injured during the protests, which began over fuel taxes and declining living standards and quickly ballooned into a revolt against the political establishment and big business.
Eight people have died in incidents linked to the demonstrations.
On Tuesday, parliament passed an amendment to the 2019 budget which grants each police officer involved in “yellow vest” protests a bonus of 300 euros ($340).
The move came as Interior Minister Christophe Castaner faced a new headache from unions representing police officers which are pressing long-standing demands for greater investment in the force.
Downplaying the threat of industrial action ahead of a meeting with union representatives, Castaner said: “I don’t think that the police are ‘yellow vests’.”
The bonus for the police will cost an estimated 33 million euros, adding to the rising bill of defusing the biggest crisis of Macron’s 19-month presidency.
In a televised address to the nation last week, the French leader announced a rise in the minimum wage, tax relief for pensioners and tax-free overtime pay for workers in a package expected to cost around 10 billion euros.
The government is now seeking to find savings to help plug the hole in its accounts next year, with the public deficit — a measure of overspending — forecast to grow to 3.2 percent of GDP in 2019.
Macron was to assemble government ministers on Tuesday evening at the presidential palace to launch a three-month “grand national debate” about the economy and taxes.
The meeting is part of a new bid to involve grassroots groups and local leaders in government decision-making, following criticism of the president’s highly-centralized top-down approach.
Companies too have been asked by the government to help purchasing power by offering Christmas bonuses to staff.