French President Emmanuel Macron is staying the course with his unpopular pension reform after the sixth night of spontaneous protests in the country and on the eve of a new day of mobilization called by the unions.
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Macron, whose government survived a motion of no confidence on Monday by only nine votes, spoke this Wednesday for the first time since the approval of the text in an interview with the two main television channels at noon. Regarding the Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, she said: “She has my confidence to lead this government team.”
The president has shown his confidence that the pension reform, which now depends on the opinion of the Constitutional Council, “comes into force at the end of the year”, and has once again stated that it is “necessary”.
“This reform is necessary. And I tell the French, I’m not happy. I would have liked not to do it”, said the French president, who has once again tried to justify the need for pension reform, strongly contested by the opposition and on the street, to balance the system “We have to invest in our services public, our schools, our healthcare. We cannot take this money and dedicate it to pensions. So the magic formula that is implicitly the project of all those who oppose this reform is the deficit”.
During the interview, Macron declared himself “willing to accept unpopularity”. “Between the surveys, the short term and the general interest of the country, I choose the general interest,” he said. Polls show a large majority of French people oppose the reform, which delays the minimum retirement age by two years, to 64. The President of the Republic has admitted: “We have not managed to convey the need for this reform”-
Some of his main collaborators had advanced that the French head of state had no intention of announcing a reshuffle of his government, an early call for legislative elections or the organization of a referendum on his pension reform. Instead, a message was expected to try to relaunch this second term – in which he still has more than four years left – in his worst political and social crisis.
The unions have called for this Thursday what will be the ninth day of mobilization against the reform in just over two months. They hope to bring hundreds of thousands of people back to the streets to force Macron to suspend it, once the bill is already formally approved by decree since Thursday last week, a controversial procedure that received validation with failure. this Monday of the two motions of censure, the first by a hair’s breadth, presented by the opposition.
“This text will follow its democratic path. It was prepared by the Government after months of consultations. It was then adopted by the Government, which amended it after consultation in Parliament. Now we must wait for the Constitutional Council to rule and it will be at the end of this decision when I will have to promulgate a text that allows things to evolve,” Macron said.
The opposition has filed appeals before the Constitutional Council and intends to force the government to call a referendum, for which it needs 4.5 million signatures.
Macron has indicated during the interview that he wants the prime minister to “build a government program” and “expand” the “presidential majority” in Parliament. “We have to move forward, we have to appease and we have to rebuild a parliamentary and reform agenda by re-engaging with the unions and with all the political forces that are willing to do so.”
The protests continue
Since the Executive decided to adopt the reform without a parliamentary vote, spontaneous demonstrations have multiplied, which has increased the pressure even more. This Tuesday, there were again protests and riots against the pension reform and there were fifty arrests in Paris on the night from Tuesday to Wednesday. The data is from the Paris Police Prefecture, whose head, Laurent Núñez, told the France Info radio station that the agents do not carry out preventive arrests, in response to accusations from the left-wing opposition, which reproaches intimidating police practices.
In the afternoon, a rally was held in the Plaza de la República called by the unions, which ultimately degenerated into damage to street furniture and clashes with law enforcement, who used tear gas. There were more demonstrations, with at least 5,000 people in total according to the prefectures (government delegations), in different cities of the country such as Grenoble, Lille, Rennes or Nantes.
This Wednesday morning the protests have continued with blockades in access to a refinery near Bordeaux, to fuel depots in Fos-sur-Mer, near Marseille, or to the port of this same city in southeastern France. There are also operations of this type in Bayonne, in Lorient, in Vannes, in some cases with pickets that have prevented the entry or exit of buses.
The strikes that have been carried out more or less without interruption for more than two weeks in sectors such as public transport, refineries, energy or garbage collection, could worsen this Thursday. This Wednesday, due to the air traffic controllers’ strike, the companies have had to cancel 20% of the flights at the Parisian airport of Orly and at Marseille.
With information from EFE.