The penny drops! Macron admits Yellow Vest chaos COULD be his fault - ‘I made MISTAKES’ 

The young europhile also warned against giving in to the wave of hardline nationalism sweeping across the bloc, as he called for a “strong, united and sovereign” Europe.  He said: “When we move ahead too quickly … we make mistakes. I’ve made mistakes in the past, which are part of the explanation for the [yellow vest] crisis. We cannot leave those who need to work, to live, to move face an uncertain future devoid of opportunities," he continued, as he called for “reconciliation” following 16 weeks of sometimes violent anti-government protests. 

The yellow vest movement – so-called because of the fluorescent safety jackets all French drivers must carry in their cars – started in mid-November over rising fuel costs and planned fuel tax hikes but quickly morphed into a popular revolt against Mr Macron’s perceived neglect of the working class and pro-business economic policies. 

His government has since gone to great lengths to quash the crisis – which is still ongoing – promising to increase the minimum wage, slash taxes for low-income pensioners, tax-free overtime pay and a scuttling of the controversial fuel tax. 

Mr Macron also sounded the alarm bell on the rising tide of populism in Europe, as he called for the soon-to-be 27-member bloc to remain “united and sovereign”. 

Urging EU states to fight against any form of “retreat into nationalism,” the 41-year-old said countries needed to instead focus on working together to resolve common problems, such as mass immigration from sub-Saharan Africa and economic slowdowns. 

“I do not think that the answer [to Europe’s problems] lies in the simplification of the message of some nationalists,” he said, as he called for a “strong Europe”.  

He said: “No country in Europe, not Italy, not France, will solve its problems by opposing itself to other European countries and by turning inwards at national level. We will solve our problems by cooperating.” 

 “I am aware of the tragedy that is ours, and I can see what is happening,” he added in a barely veiled reference to the resurgence of nationalist and populist movements. 

“There are people who defend nationalism, who want to fight our Europe. Me, I will fight these people with force, because I think they will ... make us lose 10 years, 20 years by dragging us back to [old] divisions.”

Mr Macron also called for the “reinvention of the European dream” ahead of the parliamentary elections in May, which are already been framed as a bitter battle between pro-Europe liberals pushing for deeper integration and far-right, anti-immigration nationalists. 

“The moment is ours, we are like people standing atop a volcano. There are some people who think that we can continue [as before] like sleepwalkers, as if nothing has happened. They will be buried.” 

The French centrist also commented on the recent diplomatic spat between Rome and Paris, saying the two EU allies needed to overcome their differences and work together again for the good of Europe. 

Relations between the two neighbours have grown increasingly strained since mid-2018, with Italy’s populist Deputy Prime Ministers Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini using Mr Macron as a scapegoat, mostly over immigration. 

France briefly recalled its ambassador to Rome last month in protest, but Mr Macron told RAI that the two countries had shared interests that needed to be sustained.  

He said: “There was a misunderstanding that settled. The most recent twists and turns are not, as far as I am concerned, that serious and we need to move beyond all of that.” 

While Mr Macron has promoted a firmly pro-EU programme, Mr Di Maio and Mr Salvini are staunch eurosceptics who regularly blame Brussels for Italy’s economic woes, saying the bloc is disconnected from regular citizens and has stripped too much power from national governments. 

Far-right formations like Mr Salvini’s League have made significant electoral gains across the bloc in recent years and are widely expected to expend their influence in the EU parliament in the wake of the May vote.

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