Tuesday, November 05, 2013

French tolerance 2 : Destroying public properties during demonstration

We were driving home last weekend from Brittany, and we were warned that some farmers were organizing snail operation (opération escargot) on selected highway. They were protesting against the new green tax which will take place starting 1st January 2014. Basically a bunch of farmers came with their tractors with intention to slow down the traffics.

But this time the Bretons have taken it to the next level, they destroyed gantries, equipments that come with video cameras, which will screen through trucks weight more than 3,5 tons, and later send the truck owners the tax bill. Photo shows a gantry before being destroyed.

A gantry being burned. The protesters gathered some tires around the gantry's leg and burned them.

The fire-fighters putting off fires on a gantry.

They managed to destroyed 5 gantries, several speed radars, and a gate to a local Prefecture. The Prime Minister and Home Minister have urged the protesters to calm down, claiming that going on demonstration is a right granted by the constitution, but nobody should destroy public properties. I have read several articles but non mentioned that the protesters who involved in violence were captured by the police. It seems that French government is too scared to provoke more tensions.

It shocks me that destroying public properties during demonstration is tolerated. I have asked around, people would just shrug and accept that violence could be part of a demonstration. And it's true, I remember high schoolers were demonstrating by blocking school entrances and they did burn rubbish bins in public.

Now I would like to know how much all these cost the tax payers. It seems that each gantry costs more than 500k€. The green tax is now in suspension, if the government pulls off, they would have to pay million in € to the private company they appointed to collect the tax. To put an end to these demonstrations, the government has offered to negotiate, I read that they would propose 15 million Euros to compensate the farmer industry.

So this is how I interpret the whole thing : the government is trying to raise environment taxes to finance road infrastructure. Every truck that transports goods more than 3,5 tons would have to pay taxes. With the demonstrations, the government will subsidy the farmer industry with 15 million € + paying for all the repair costs. All these even out, the government would probably get nothing from this tax. It all comes down to a simple game : we propose a tax, we use the money to shut up those who protest, and we ask those who don't make noise to pay more taxes. Agree?


  1. Anonymous1:21 AM

    Logic doesn't apply here. Oh, wait, sorry: French logic applies here. Whatever that is :-D

  2. I'm just annoyed by the whole situation. There are so much issues that resulted to this revolt. The law was voted a couple years ago and nobody protested then, why now. I'm just mad that the government (right or left) is not using the tax payer's money efficiently. And this is not fair for the rest of French people to pay for this vandalism. They can sprinkle a little money in Brittany but it will not change the situation, and how about the rest of France. Do we need to make a scene to get a penny for our region too?

    As for the Breton farmers, they are victims of Europe. (Germans employ cheap labour from Eastern Europe). France can't compete. At this rate, in the future French people will not have the choice but eat meat produced outside France.

  3. There are several oddities with this system:
    - first you pay only when you pass under the gateway: so a truck with a trip of 100 km with 1 gateway pays the exact same tax than a truck with a trip of 20km with 1 gateway. They made sure to cover secondary roads as well to avoid dodging and in case of dodging, they can add more gateways anyways.
    - second, this is the exact opposite of protectionism: imported goods that will travel thousands of kilometers, provide their share of pollution, will not pass under those gateways as much thus providing an unfair advantage against locally produced goods that have to travel multiple times to be refined, assembled, etc ...

    The original idea is good but it seems to have too many loopholes and it couldn't come at a worst time.

    Now, about Brittany, you need to understand that there is also a bit of culture being at stake here. Brittany is a country of legends, many many legends, one of them being that when it was merged into France, the deal was that no toll should ever be asked for roads.
    So economic crisis + threatened culture = angry Breton and believe me, we know "stubbornness"