In the heated dispute over the pension reform and shortly before new planned mass protests, French President Emmanuel Macron resolutely defended the reform project. "This reform is not a luxury, it is not a pleasure, it is a necessity for the country," said the head of state in an interview with TF1 and France 2 channels.
There are no "36 solutions" for a balanced pension fund. Laurent Berger, chairman of the CFDT union, accused Macron of lying and denial. The CFDT has a proposal for pension reform. Philippe Martinez from the CGT union also said: "Either he doesn't know our system - and that's bad - or he's kidding us."
France has been arguing for weeks about government reform to gradually raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. In the past few days, the conflict has escalated due to the government's crackdown in parliament - the reform was pushed through the National Assembly without a final vote. Spontaneous protests degenerated several times, and people also demonstrated against the project on Wednesday. The ailing center government barely survived a vote of no confidence in the National Assembly. The reform has been passed since the vote on Monday evening. It is not yet in force.
New strikes already announced
Macron had stayed in the background in the debate for a long time. His television interview - shortly before new strikes and protests announced for Thursday - had been eagerly awaited. Macron said: "We have to calm down," and indicated improvements in the world of work. In the interview, however, he acted rather defensively. The atmosphere in the large empty room in the Élysée Palace was cool.
"Do you think I enjoy doing this reform?" asked Macron, answering with a resounding "no". The reform is very difficult. "We ask people to make an effort. It's never popular." But: "Between the polls and the short-term and the general interest of the country, I choose the general interest of the country." He regrets, however, that he was not convinced of the need for the reform.
After the interview, Macron was accused of arrogance from the ranks of the left, the Greens called his behavior contemptuous, the right-wing nationalists accused Macron of not listening, as reported by the France Info broadcaster.
Demands for resignation against Prime Minister
In the past few days, there have been several calls for Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to step down in the wake of the pension dispute. Macron now had her back. "She has my confidence to steer this government team." He hopes that she can expand the government majority in the coming weeks. The center camp around Macron and Borne has not had an absolute majority in the National Assembly since the parliamentary elections in June. It therefore needs votes from the opposition.
The controversial pension reform is currently with the Constitutional Council, which could overturn parts of it. Both Borne and opposition MPs have called the instance. The opposition wants to have the government's actions reviewed, which shortened the time for debates in parliament through an accelerated procedure and included the reform in a budget text. It is still unclear when the Constitutional Council will decide. Macron wants the reform to be in place by the end of the year.
Currently, the retirement age in France is 62 years. In fact, retirement begins later on average: those who have not paid in long enough to receive a full pension work longer. At the age of 67 there is then a pension without a deduction, regardless of the payment period - the government wants to keep this, even if the number of payment years required for a full pension is to increase more quickly. She wants to increase the monthly minimum pension to around 1,200 euros.