Estimated reading time 3 minutes 3 Min

Macron says French pension changes in force by year-end

French President Emmanuel Macron says pension reforms are necessary and will enter into force by the end of the year.

March 23, 2023
23 March 2023

French President Emmanuel Macron says a deeply unpopular new law that raises the retirement age is necessary and will enter into force by the end of the year.

Saying he had “no regrets,” he however added that he wanted to improve a fraught relationship with labour unions and involve them more in future reforms, on topics including retraining for those in painful jobs.

“Do you think I enjoy doing this (pension) reform? No,” Macron said in an interview with TF1 and France 2 TV. 

“But there are not a hundred ways to balance the accounts… this reform is necessary.”

Until the government pushed the pension bill through without a vote, the protests against a bill extending the retirement age by two years to 64 had gathered huge, peaceful crowds in rallies organised by unions.

But since the government’s decision to skip a vote in parliament last week, spontaneous protests in Paris and elsewhere have resulted in rubbish bins and barricades being set ablaze every night amid scuffles with police.

Protesters on Wednesday also blocked train stations in the southern cities of Nice and Toulouse.

This, alongside with rolling strikes that affect oil depots, public transport and rubbish collection, represent the most serious challenge to the president’s authority since the “Yellow Vest” revolt four years ago.

Labour unions have announced another day of strikes and demonstrations on Thursday.

“We don’t want this law and we’ll fight until it is withdrawn,” pensioner Jacques Borensztejn said at a rally on Tuesday in Paris.

Macron said what he called “extreme violence” was not acceptable, while he respected the right to peaceful protests.

“We’ll make sure a life that is as normal as possible can resume in the face of the few that block things,” he said.

Neither a government reshuffle nor snap elections are on the cards but rather an attempt to regain the initiative with measures to better involve citizens and unions in decision-making, political leaders in Macron’s camp have said.

While the opposition has called for Macron to fire his prime minister Elisabeth Borne, who has been at the forefront of the pension reform, Macron backed her in the interview and said that he had tasked her with further widening the majority.

Macron’s camp lost its majority in the lower house of parliament in elections last year.

“She (Borne) has my trust to lead this government team” and build a legislative program to have “fewer laws, shorter, clearer texts” and “continue to widen this majority as much as it can”.

Polls show a wide majority of the public is opposed to the pension legislation as well as the government’s decision to push the bill through parliament last week without a vote.

But Macron said he would stand firm.

“Between the short-term polls and the general interest of the country, I choose the general interest…. we will not tolerate any misbehaviour,” he said.

“We have no right to standstill or immobility,” he said. 

More in Top Stories