The dispute over France's pension reform threatens to escalate further. In view of the ongoing protests, the state visit of British King Charles III. postponed on Friday. Originally, Charles was due to come to France from Sunday to Wednesday on his first foreign visit as Britain's king. He is expected in Germany from March 29th.
The French and British governments made the decision together after a phone call from Macron and Charles on Friday morning. It should be possible to receive Charles under the conditions that correspond to the friendly relationship. That probably wouldn't have been the case - the unions have called for new nationwide strikes and protests for next Tuesday.
The protests against the pension reform came to a head. During protests, some of which were violent, 457 people were arrested across the country, as French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on CNews on Friday morning. Around 440 police officers and gendarmes were injured the day before and during the night. Images of a police officer who collapsed after a stone hit his helmet caused horror.
Several buildings attacked
Trade unions had again called for a major day of strikes and demonstrations on Thursday. The mood in some cities was already tense during the day. According to Darmanin, several public buildings were attacked. On the sidelines of a demonstration in Bordeaux, southern France, there was a fire in the entrance area of the town hall on Thursday evening. The portal of a colonnade leading to the forecourt of the city hall was damaged, said a spokeswoman for the local prefecture. A man was arrested. Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne called the violence and damage unacceptable.
The protests are directed against the gradual increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64, which has since been passed, and the actions of the center government under President Emmanuel Macron. According to the authorities, almost 1.09 million people demonstrated across the country on Thursday. The union CGT spoke of 3.5 million participants.
People in France have been demonstrating against the pension reform since the beginning of the year. The days of strikes and protests were mostly peaceful for weeks. But ever since the government pushed the controversial reform through the National Assembly last week without a vote, there has been more and more violence - especially during spontaneous protests. Demonstrators, for their part, accused the police of violence.
Reform still lies with the Constitutional Council
Pension reform is considered one of President Macron's key projects. With it, an impending hole in the pension fund is to be averted. The unions consider the project unfair and brutal. The text has been approved, but is pending examination by the Constitutional Council. It is not yet clear when the instance will decide on the reform. Macron wants it to come into force by the end of the year. The dispute over the reform has significantly weakened the government.
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 any deductions, regardless of how long it has been paid in - the government intends to keep this, even if the number of years required to pay in for a full pension is to increase more quickly. She wants to increase the monthly minimum pension to around 1,200 euros.