French government scrambles to contain ecotax revolt

Nov 05, 2013
A truck passes under an "ecotax" control portal with a banner reading, "Brittany is dying, no to the ecotax" on November 4, 2013 in Plelan-le-Grand, western France, on the motorway between Lorient and Rennes

The French government scrambled Tuesday to contain anger over a proposed environmental tax as protesters continued to destroy radars set up to help collect the levy, in a revolt that shows no sign of abating.

Protests over the new "ecotax" on trucks, which aims to encourage environmentally friendly commercial transport, kicked off in earnest last month in the northwestern region of Brittany and eventually forced the government to backtrack and suspend the levy.

Wearing red bonnets, the symbol of a 17th-century anti- campaign in Brittany, the protesters—small business owners, fishermen and food industry workers—marched in big, sometimes violent, rallies in the region, which has already been crushed by job cuts and would be hard hit by the new tax.

Some destroyed radars set up in advance along roads to screen passing vehicles and determine whether they need to pay the tax, which would apply to French and foreign vehicles carrying goods weighing over 3.5 tonnes.

Under pressure to rein in its state deficit, France's Socialist government has announced about 3 billion euros ($4.1 billion) in tax increases for next year, and protests in Brittany come on top of wider opposition to tax hikes.

The ecotax was actually adopted by the previous right-wing UMP government in 2009 but its implementation had repeatedly been put off.

And while the Socialist government suspended the levy last week over the unrest, protesters asking for the tax to be completely abandoned have continued to destroy radars, mostly in Brittany but in other parts of the country too.

On Tuesday, the transport ministry said 11 such radars had been vandalised since the beginning of the protest movement, as had four big overhead road structures equipped with cameras and radio receptors.

This equipment would identify trucks liable for the tax thanks to a GPS box installed inside the vehicles.

Controversy has also started to swirl around Ecomouv', the firm contracted by the previous to collect the tax, amid "questions" over how the company was awarded the contract.

Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici on Tuesday said the contract signed with the firm—which is majority owned by Italian company Autostrade per l'Italia—would have to be renegotiated.

"We can question the fact that the collection of a national tax was handed over to a supplier with foreign origins," he said.

And while have so far been concentrated in Brittany, there is concern that the unrest may spread to other parts of France.

Last week, market gardeners staged a rally in a region near Brittany to demand an end to the levy, and several ecotax radars have been destroyed in other parts of France.

Explore further: After nuclear phase-out, Germany debates scrapping coal

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

French lawmakers approve tax on energy drinks

Oct 24, 2013

French lawmakers on Thursday approved a tax on energy drinks such as Red Bull over health concerns, amid growing claims that high-caffeine products are hazardous to young people.

Google chairman hopes for France tax deal soon

Nov 05, 2012

Google chairman Eric Schmidt said Monday he hopes his firm will reach a settlement "by the end of the year" with authorities in France in a billion-dollar dispute over taxes.

Recommended for you

Inclusive approach to comprehensive retrofitting project

4 minutes ago

Cuatro de Marzo is a district in the southern part of the Spanish city of Valladolid. It is a dense residential area with 190 privately-owned dwellings, developed in 1955. The area is populated by a series ...

New battery technology for electric vehicles

Nov 21, 2014

Scientists at the Canadian Light Source are on the forefront of battery technology using cheaper materials with higher energy and better recharging rates that make them ideal for electric vehicles (EVs).

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.