King Louis XVI’s refusal to embrace reforms led to his downfall, Emmanuel Macron told corporate executives gathered at Versailles. The meeting was held in part to alleviate investors’ fears after 10 weeks of Yellow Vest protests.
An estimated 150 executives, including Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, JPMorgan Chase CEO James Dimon, and Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey, met with the French president at the decadent palace outside of Paris.
“A lot of people thought that it was not a good date to gather here,” Macron told his guests, referring to the execution of French King Louis XVI, who was guillotined on January 21, exactly 226 years ago on Monday. “But when you look at French history, if at the end they ended up like that, it’s because a lot of leaders decided not to reform.”
The comment was likely aimed at alleviating concerns about the Yellow Vest protest movement, which entered its 10th week on Saturday. The nationwide protests have sometimes turned violent, and according to Macron’s office, have caused concern among foreign investors hoping to cash in on Macron’s business-friendly reforms.
Notably, Macron reassured his CEO guests that he would “not roll back what we have done in the past 18 months” – unpopular labor and tax reforms that have been cited as sparking the Yellow Vest protests.
Macron also said that the Yellow Vest movement had been spurred by middle-class anger over globalization, arguing that similar sentiments have given rise to Brexit and populist governments across Europe.
The Yellow Vest protests began in November as a movement against planned fuel tax hikes, but eventually grew to include wider demands, including the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron and his government.
Previous rallies have seen violent clashes with police. There have been injuries on both sides, and over 1,000 people have been detained in connection to the unrest, which has at times spilled out into street battles.