Macron confident controversial pension reform will take effect this year

Paris, Mar 22 (EFE).- French president Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday said he is confident that unpopular pension reforms will come into force by the end of the year.

The reforms, which will see the retirement age rise from 62 to 64 years, have triggered massive protests – which have at times led to violent clashes with police – and several rounds of nationwide strikes.

The government pushed through the reforms last week using special constitutional powers to bypass parliament after it emerged it might not have enough support from MPs.

“It would be good for 1.8 million people to see their pension increased by about 600 euros per year,” Macron said in an interview broadcast on France’s two main public TV stations.

He said the protests “must be respected when they are peaceful but not when they resort to extreme violence.”

While he acknowledged that “we must listen to the anger” of French citizens, he warned that “an overflow will not be tolerated”, because “legitimate anger” against the reforms does not justify violence.

“We are a great nation and an old people who vote for their decision-makers and give them legitimacy. Unions have theirs and when they demonstrate I respect them, it is a right protected by the Constitution,” Macron said.

“But when there are groups that use extreme violence to attack democratic representatives, when they use violence without rules because they are not happy, that is not democracy,” he added, pointing to the violent scenes witnessed in Washington DC and Brasilia when protesters stormed government buildings and democratic institutions.

He called for striking workers blocking vital infrastructure and services, such as refineries, fuel distribution and waste collection, to end their protests because of their damaging “effect on economic activity.”

The president, who has been heavily criticized by union leaders and opposition parties for failing to listen to public sentiment, said his only mistake during the process had been “not managing to convince” the country of the need for pension reform.

The government says it is necessary to tackle France’s growing budget deficit, which is expected to reach 12.5 billion euros by 2030.

“Do they think I want this reform? No,” he said, insisting that options such as lowering pensions or raising taxes had been discarded.

“No trade union force has proposed compromises. They have told us that they did not want any reform,” Macron insisted.

He pointed out that the French government has faced union opposition every time that it has tried to introduce pension reforms, and insisted his cabinet would “assume” the consequences of the unpopular changes.

“Between the long-term polls and the general interest of the country, I choose the general interest of the country. And if that has consequences, I accept them,” Macron said. EFE


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