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France“s Macron signs contested pension bill into law


French President Emmanuel Macron’s flagship pension reform will enter into force swiftly, officials said on Friday (April 14) after it received the Constitutional Council’s approval despite months of street protests and strikes. Angela Johnston reports.

Protesters gather in front of the Paris City Hall after the Constitutional Council (Conseil Constitutionnel) approved most of the French government’s pension reform, in Paris, France, April 14, 2023. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French President Emmanuel Macron has signed into law a bill to raise the state pension age that sparked mass protests, the government’s official journal showed on Saturday.

The proclamation of the law came after France’s Constitutional Council on Friday approved the main pension-age increase and follows months of demonstrations against the plan, which the government forced through parliament without a final vote.

The legislation, which will progressively push up the age for drawing a state pension to 64 from 62, is deeply unpopular and protests immediately broke out when the Constitutional Council’s decision was announced.

Crowds marched through Paris on Friday evening, with some burning trash bins, while in the northwestern city of Rennes the entrance to a police station was set on fire.

Trade unions on Friday called on the government not to enact the legislation, despite the green light from the Constitutional Council, and urged workers to turn out in force for marches on Labour Day on May 1.

They rejected an invitation by Macron to meet on Tuesday.

The president has staked his reputation as a reformer on the pension changes, which he says are needed to avoid billions of euros of deficit each year by the end of the decade.

“Never give up, that’s my motto,” he said on Friday before the Constitutional Council verdict, as he visited Notre-Dame on the anniversary of a fire that gutted the celebrated Paris cathedral.

The government plans to apply the new legislation from Sept. 1.

Francois Ruffin, a lawmaker from the left-wing LFI party, on Twitter accused the government of proclaiming the pension law “like thieves in the night”.

Opposition parties have tabled another bid for a citizens’ referendum on the reform after the Constitutional Council on Friday rejected a first such proposal.

The pension system is a cornerstone of France’s cherished social protection model and trade unions say extra funding can be found elsewhere, including by taxing the rich more heavily.

Public hostility to the reform has increased since the government, which does not have a majority in parliament, pushed through the bill in March without a final vote using special constitutional powers.

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