Yesterday, French president Emmanuel Macron talking about pension reform, said in the interview granted to TF1 and France 2, that he assumed “to be unpopular” and that he was acting for “the interest of the nation”. And does not intend to back down on the pension reform. This reform isn’t a luxury, it’s not a pleasure, it’s a necessity,” he said.
Emmanuel Macron said he would press on with plans to raise the pension age, rejecting calls for a U-turn in response to growing public anger. The government’s use of constitutional authority to ram through changes without a vote in the National Assembly has emboldened protesters. On Thursday, there will be a ninth round of nationwide strikes and demonstrations. Numerous towns have seen hundreds of arrests over the course of six nights of protests.
Bins that have been left overflowing by refuse workers have been set alight and 13% of petrol stations are running short of fuel because of blockades at oil refineries; almost half the pumps in the Bouches-du-Rhône area of the south have run dry.
The protests have also cast a cloud over King Charles’s imminent visit to France. Green MP Sandrine Rousseau called for the trip to be cancelled: “Is the priority really to receive Charles III at Versailles? Something is taking place within French society… the priority is to go and talk to society which is rising up.”
That there are demonstrations, peaceful, yes, it is legitimate, it is normal. Next to that, there are blockades and violence, they must be condemned”. “No union force has proposed a compromise. It was made by the government, with the Parliament”.
“I am not looking to be re-elected: I am thinking of the best interests of the country”.” Do you think I enjoy passing this reform? No,” he said. Looking to bring in the rise in the pension age by the end of 2023 he said he had a responsibility not to leave the issue alone despite its unpopularity.
France has a pay-as-you-go pension system whereby workers pay for retirees. Mr Macron pointed out that when he began working there were 10 million French pensioners and now there were 17 million.
“The longer we wait, the more [the deficit] will deteriorate.” He said it was time to move, reviving dialogue with the unions and all the political forces that were ready to do so. He outlined a list of priorities for the rest of his presidency: reforming immigration laws, building 200 new barracks for military police, schools, health and the environment.
President Macron’s decision to use the 49:3 clause to force through a rise in the pension age from 62 to 64 and prolong pension contributions is considered his biggest political risk since he took on the yellow-vest protesters in the first term of his presidency.
Union leaders said up to half of primary school teachers would go on strike as part of Thursday’s day of action but demonstrations were continuing on Wednesday, including outside the southern port of Marseille-Fos.