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Last-ditch protests in France over Macron’s pension reform

France's constitutional court is due to rule on the legality of the pensions reform President Emmanuel Macron wants to sign immediately into law
France's constitutional court is due to rule on the legality of the pensions reform President Emmanuel Macron wants to sign immediately into law - Copyright AFP Ludovic MARIN
France's constitutional court is due to rule on the legality of the pensions reform President Emmanuel Macron wants to sign immediately into law - Copyright AFP Ludovic MARIN
Laurent BARTHELEMY

Hundreds of thousands of people are set to take to the streets across France again on Thursday to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform in a final day of demonstrations before a crucial court decision on the legislation.

Police expect around 400,000-600,000 people to take part nationwide, less than half of the peak of nearly 1.3 million reached in March at the height of the protests against the bid to raise the retirement age to 64 from 62. 

Security forces are on alert for troublemakers, with around 1,500 anarchist and radical protesters expected in Paris, while regional towns such as Nantes and Rennes are again seen as being at risk of clashes. 

All eyes are currently on the constitutional court, which is due to rule on the legality of the draft pensions law. 

“The decision from the constitutional court on Friday will bring an end to the democratic and constitutional procedures,” Macron told reporters on a trip to the Netherlands on Wednesday, adding that public debate “will continue, for sure”.

If the court issues a greenlight — and ministers are privately confident it will — Macron hopes to sign the changes into law immediately, clearing the way for them to enter into force before the end of 2023.

Having repeatedly snubbed calls for talks with union leaders in recent weeks, the 45-year-old said he would invite labour representatives for discussions once the court decision was published.

“I know that traces of our current disagreements will remain, but I will do it (call for talks) in a spirit of concord and with the desire to look to the future, whatever decision is announced,” he added.

If the law is approved, it remains to be seen if unions will call more strikes, with momentum clearly waning and employees reluctant to give up on salaries for what seems like a losing battle.

Surveys show that about two in three French people are against the pension changes, but Macron argues that it is essential to stop the system falling into heavy deficits in coming decades. 

Critics accuse the president of riding roughshod over public opinion and parliament, where the minority government invoked controversial executive powers to ram the legislation through without a vote at the end of March.

Speaking in the Netherlands, Macron linked the pension changes to the need for France to control public spending and his larger agenda for closer economic ties between EU members.

“I’m proud of the French social model and I defend it, but if we want to make it sustainable we have to produce more,” he said. 

“We have to re-industrialise the country. We have to decrease unemployment and we have to increase the quantity of work being delivered in the country. This pension reform is part of it.”

AFP
Written By

With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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