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Social protests in France: green against yellow

2019-09-24T16:07:36.156Z

Climate protectors against yellow vests: In France, two social movements fight more openly with each other. Is the conflict threatening to divide the country and Europe?




Last Friday, a man wearing a yellow vest and guitar approached the demonstration train of "Fridays for Future" on Paris's Diderot Boulevard. He stopped on the sidewalk and sang self-composed songs to which he played on the guitar: "You are the green west, we are the yellow west, let's march together!" He agreed. Many could hear it. But none of the young climate protectors sang along. Slightly annoyed, most of them looked away.

"It would be dishonest to declare the yellow vests adversaries of climate protection," French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with the newspaper Le Parisien. "It's people who express their social suffering, but often have a real ecological awareness," says Macron. Does he want to make things nice?

These days in France, the conflict between two social movements is becoming ever clearer: the new climate protection movement and the yellow-age movement, which is only a year old. In Paris, he was palpable on the weekend. "Violence erupted at the head of the train that was not coming from the protesters for climate change," Jean-Francois Julliard, director of Greenpeace France, told Le Monde.

In fact, Yellow Vests and some Autonomists had joined a second climate demonstration on Saturday unsolicited. "The police threw tear gas and then prevented parents from leaving the train with their children," Julliard said. "It felt like a big setback at a time when we really need people's mobilization." Will green and yellow soon only march separately? Or maybe even against each other?

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Green Party politician and hero of the French '68 movement, would not be surprised: "The supporters of the Yellow West have voted in France in the European elections to 70 to 80 percent of the right-wing extremist Marine Le Pen It is a sheer statement to say ", said Cohn-Bendit to SPIEGEL. He points to the origins of the yellow vests: their protest had been in France at the increase in gasoline price and a speed limit of 80 km / h ignited on rural roads. Exactly such measures demanded the climate protectors. "Instead, the yellow vests feel milked by the state."

Old wounds

But the contrast between yellow and green is not just apparent on the streets of Paris. With a little distance, it shapes the whole of Europe and draws a gap between France and Germany. On the right side of the Rhine, the climate demonstrations have attracted hundreds of thousands of people in recent days, compared to just tens of thousands in France. "10,000 in Paris, that's nothing," says Cohn-Bendit about the weekend Paris climate demonstration. Hundreds of thousands of yellow-vests, for example, demonstrated this in France last year, with few in Germany showing solidarity. "In France, more is discussed about the pension than about the climate, which is a huge problem," says Cohn-Bendit.

Such comparisons tear up old wounds. Already in the eighties, many young Germans took to the streets in the course of the eco-and peace movements against nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons, while it remained relatively quiet in France. French foreign policy expert Dominique Moisi, founder of the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI) in Paris, recalls what Cohn-Bendit once said: "If Hitler had cut down six million trees, the Germans would have protested," Moisi quotes.

Cohn-Bendit still stands by this statement. But Moisi believes that the French and Germans are now on their way: "France has caught up a lot, and the young French are as environmentally aware today as the young Germans," he says. The yellow vests, however, he sees as a French peculiarity.

A completely different opinion is Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier. "We saw in France, where this leads, the increases are withdrawn," said Altmaier on Sunday with explicit reference to the yellow vests in the ARD talk in Anne Will, when he had to justify the low energy price increases of the climate package of the Grand Coalition. So Altmaier wanted to bring green and yellow, Germany and France, on a line.

Nothing else Macron tries. But the conflict between the social movements could go deeper than the governments in Paris and Berlin want to admit. There were still no brawls between yellow vests and climate protectors. Nothing happened to the Yellow Westerner in Paris either. It does not have to stay like this.

Source: spiegel

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