Why the “Gilets jaunes” won’t make it in Luxembourg

The ‘gilets jaunes’ in France are celebrating their win over Macron’s plans for increased petrol taxes. After weeks of protests and riots, the French president has instructed prime ministerEdouard Philippe to delay the decision to increase the tax burden by six months.

However, the ‘yellow vests’ aren’t prepared to run out of breath until May – which unsurprisingly coincides with the European elections – and continue with yet another large demonstration planned this Saturday. Meanwhile, the movement has spread, to a less substantive degree, to Belgium and Germany.

Now the question could be asked: will Luxembourg also see the ‘yellow vest’ movement? Probably not. Petrol prices are very low in the Grand Duchy in comparison to neighbouring countries, and Luxembourgers aren’t inclined to protest by nature.

The only large protests people could immediately think of were those against the Iraq War in the early 2000s and the student protests opposing the government’s 2014 reduction in student subsidies. Overall, Luxembourgish protests are rather symbolic photo-ops for the purpose of social media representation: man on street is replaced by man in the comment section (I’m sure we’ll have some ourselves under this article).

And yet, the government shouldn’t be too confident about being safe from protests. The people you meet at ‘gilets jaunes’ protests are genuinely distressed: many of them live on very limited income, and are hurt by indirect taxation. Luxembourg has kept indirect taxation comparatively low, and yet much of what people pay for their litre of petrol goes straight to the Treasury.

This is not a fact that has escaped Luxembourgers, they have merely relativised with their financial situation which is stable overall. Any turmoil on the international markets, followed by inflation, could quickly create an equally upset movement in the Grand Duchy.

One thing would differentiate a ‘yellow vest’ movement in Luxembourg from those abroad: it would remain a single-issue protest. Protesters would not allow themselves to be undermined politically or, as it happened just recently with the ‘gilets jaunes’ movement in France, be in the position of making demands that far exceed the initial scope of the protest. The French ‘yellow vests’ are now also demanding an increase in the minimum wage, and increased taxes on the rich.

It is equally unlikely that such a protest would ever turn violent. The only riot-like behaviour you’ll find in the Grand Duchy is hooliganism, which in a majority of cases is an imported problem through foreign fans. Luxembourgers don’t believe that breaking windows and setting cars on fire is a productive way of achieving your political goals.

There might not be a ‘gilets jaunes’ protest in Luxembourg in the coming weeks and months, but any long-term increases to the tax burden could hit politicians where it hurts them the most: at the ballot box.


This article was first published by the Luxembourg Times.

Pictures are Creative Commons.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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