Aside from political crises with the U.S. and Italy, France marked 2019 with major nation-wide protests from the yellow vests to the pension reform strikers.
Protesters donning yellow safety vests took to the streets in October last year, becoming one of the longest-running anti-government movements in the country’s history against President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial policies.
The demonstrations left 11 protesters and police dead and more than 4,000 injured, according to the French government. At least 8,400 people have been arrested since the beginning of the Yellow Vest protests, and 2,000 remanded in custody.
On Dec. 5, France saw one of the biggest strikes in its recent history, with demonstrators continuing to protest against Macron’s controversial pension scheme.
The plan would gradually raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, a move expected to adversely affect many sectors.
Workers would get full pensions if they retire at age 64. If they retired before, they would lose 5% for every year they retire early, or a 5% increase for every year if they retire after age 64.
The strike continued for 27 days, lasting longer than the strike of 1995, when then-Prime Minister Alain Juppe had to withdraw pension reform after a three-week long strike.
Police violence against activists and journalists has increased in 2019. According to data compiled by Anadolu Agency, one person died and nearly 500 were injured with 26 losing at least one eye.
Anadolu Agency photojournalist Mustafa Yalcin was wounded on Dec. 5, when a projectile fired by police exploded near him, breaking the glass of his helmet and leaving his left eye severely injured.
Yalcin underwent a six-hour operation at Cochin Hospital and faces the risk of permanent loss of eyesight.
On Jul. 11 Macron signed into law new legislation on large tech companies, applying a 3% tax on tech firms with a total annual revenue of at least €750 million ($842 million) with at least €25 million of its income coming from France.
The law is expected to hit several major American firms, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.
On Dec. 2 The Trump administration proposed tariffs on up to $2.4 billion worth of French imports, including cheese, lipstick, handbags and sparkling wine, in a tit-for-tat response. In a press conference ahead of a NATO summit on Dec. 3, U.S. President Donald Trump said: “I’m not gonna let people take advantage of American companies. If anyone’s going to take advantage of the American companies, it’s going to be us. It’s not going to be France.”
In February, Italian Labor and Social Policies Minister Luigi Di Maio met Yellow Vest protesters.
France recalled its ambassador to Italy for consultations for the first time since the World War II.
Describing Di Maio’s move as an “interference” in French domestic politics, French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said the meeting was a provocation and unacceptable.