Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron used his traditional New Year’s eve speech to sound a warning to extreme elements among anti-government protesters.
He promised to keep order “without complacency” and decried self-appointed “spokespeople for a hateful mob”, BBC reported Monday.
At least six persons have died and around 1,400 have been injured since protests over fuel tax rises erupted last month.
Earlier, in her annual address, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country would play a greater international role in 2019.
She said that old certainties about international co-operation had “come under pressure”, alluding to strained US-German relations, and Germany must “take on more responsibility”.
The French President suggested that the anger at the root of the “yellow vest” unrest, so named because of the high-visibility vests worn by protesters, showed France was “not resigned” and wanted to “build a better future”.
However, without naming them, he went on to condemn extreme elements who sought to speak “in the name of the people”.
“In fact they are only the spokespeople of a hate-filled mob and they target elected politicians, the security forces, journalists, Jews, foreigners and homosexuals,” President Macron said. “It is quite simply the negation of France.”
Warning French citizens to be wary of fake news, he asked them “not to forget that you can build nothing on lies”.
The government, he said, should be allowed to continue its work to carry out reforms.
“In recent years, we’ve engaged in a blatant denial of reality,” he said. “We can’t work less, earn more, cut taxes and increase spending.”
However, he also accepted that more work must be done to make some citizens feel more valued.
As the French leader’s speech was broadcast, reports came in of new protests. “Yellow Vests” could be seen gathering on the Champs-Elysees in Paris and setting up camp by the A28 motorway, south of Le Mans, but there were no immediate reports of trouble.