Dozens of drivers stand in front of their trucks as they blocked a motorway at the Paris-Lyon connection, during a demonstration yesterday near the French southwestern town of Lormont, to protest the government’s plans for a tax on heavy vehicles. Protests over the new ‘ecotax’ on trucks, which aims to encourage environmentally-friendly commercial transport, kicked off in earnest previous month in the western region of Brittany and eventually forced the government to backtrack and suspend the levy.
Thousands of trucks blocked roads across France for the second time in as many weeks yesterday, while a protest rally in Brittany drew thousands, as a revolt over tax rages on despite government concessions.
The interior ministry said around 2,200 trucks took part in the protest against a proposed tax on trucks weighing more than 3.5 tonnes, known as the “eco-tax”.
It has sparked fierce opposition and riots in the past month. The transport union behind the protest put the figure at 4,500 trucks.
Around 60 trucks with flashing indicators and hazard lights held up cars on the motorway leading from Charles de Gaulle airport to Paris.
Some of the trucks had placards affixed to their grills, condemning the eco-tax as an “escroc-taxe” (cheat’s tax).
Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest the mounting tax burden.
In the western region of Brittany, where the revolt began, around 17,000 protesters wearing red revolutionary-themed caps and waving Breton flags thronged the third mass rally in the region since October, according to local authorities.
The organisers estimated the turnout at more than 40,000 people.
Two previous demonstrations of the so-called Bonnets Rouges (Red Caps) protesters ended in riots, after they attacked million-euro scanners erected to collect the truck tax.
Yesterday’s rally was a more festive affair, with several local bands entertaining the crowd, who linked arms to perform traditional Breton group dances.
The government had hoped that several concessions would defuse the protests.
On Friday, Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll said the truck tax, which aims to raise 900,000 euros ($1.2mn) annually towards infrastructure development, would not take effect until at least 2015.
But transport companies and people in Brittany, a region that has been hit by job losses, are demanding the tax be scrapped altogether.
The protests, which have inspired ambulance drivers, tradespeople, pony club owners and other groups to take to the streets, reflect deep frustration with the Socialist government’s policies.
Under pressure from the European Union to reduce its budget deficit, the government’s response has mainly been to raise taxes and to avoid deep spending cuts, although France has one of the highest public spending levels in Europe.
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