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Last Updated: Monday, 10 April 2006, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
History of French protests
Dominic de Villepin's government has abandoned its youth employment law after more than a month of occasionally violent demonstrations. Street protests have a habit of forcing reversals of French government policy:


Students in Bordeaux demonstrate against the new youth employment law
The 2006 protests are proving to be as effective as in previous years

In February 2005, education minister Francois Fillon was forced to withdraw key elements of school reform after protests by pupils and teachers.

President Jacques Chirac's government had been considering revamping the education system, which would have meant teaching more practical skills and replacing many examinations with continuous assessment.

However, a backlash from high school pupils forced a rethink. Lycee students marched to denounce planned changes to "le bac", the baccalaureate school-leaving examination. They said the reforms would leave thousands of students with worthless qualifications.


Crippling strikes and mass protests forced Prime Minister Alain Juppe's government to abandon pensions reforms.

The proposals included pension reforms, a new tax to repay welfare debt, raising hospital patients' fees and tying hospital spending to the inflation rate, a special charge on pharmaceutical companies and on doctors, and freezing family allowances the following year and taxing them a year later.

They were the centrepiece of a government austerity drive to ensure France qualified for European monetary union.

France qualified anyway, but Mr Juppe's government fell in 1997.


Prime Minister Edouard Balladur abandoned a controversial plan to allow employers to pay young workers less than the legal minimum wage, after a month of street protests by students and unions.

The government maintained that the plan would encourage firms to take on young workers, afflicted by a catastrophic 23% unemployment rate. Student organisations countered that the proposal devalued young peoples' work and turned them into cheap labour.


In January, hundreds of thousands of people turned out to protest against a government plan to tamper with a 19th-Century law governing the state funding of private schools. Prime Minister Edouard Balladur's government wanted to extend state funds to private schools, but teachers, parents and pupils accused the government of trying to bail out private education at the expense of state-run schools.

France's constitutional court annulled the crucial clause of the funding bill and the plan was abandoned.

A month later, Mr Balladur bowed in the face of fishermen demonstrating - sometimes violently - against falling prices and cheap foreign imports. Having warned the fishermen that "violence doesn't pay", the prime minister awarded the fishermen several million francs in increased benefits.


In the autumn of 1993, Mr Balladur's government climbed down over a plan to restructure Air France and lay off workers. Demonstrations included Air France ground staff invading runways and halting flights for days. Bernard Attali, the company's president resigned.


Jacques Chirac, then prime minister, shelved plans to implement university reform, in an attempt to defuse an increasingly explosive situation. One demonstrator was killed.

The University Reform Bill would have allowed universities broader scope in selecting students and encouraging them to issue their own, rather than national, degree certificates. But, after mass demonstrations, Mr Chirac announced the government's decision to give in to student demands to withdraw the whole of the bill.

MAY '68

May 1968 became synonymous with chaos and revolutionary zeal as students in Paris, initially angered by university reform, challenged the status quo, erecting barricades round the Sorbonne university.

A demonstrator hurls a stone at riot police in Paris in May 1968

The violence which police used to suppress the protesters brought French workers onto the streets in their support. As the protests grew, the country was almost brought to a standstill.

In a "back me or sack me" speech on 30 May, President Charles de Gaulle called a snap parliamentary election. The June poll resulted in a resounding victory for the Gaullist conservatives, which ended the crisis and restored the president's authority.

In the longer run, however, the 1968 revolt helped undermine the legitimacy of General de Gaulle, who stood down the following year.

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