Conflicts & War

Scores arrested in France as Macron scrambles to ease tensions over reforms

Paris, Mar 21 (EFE).- Almost 300 people were arrested overnight after protests broke out in several cities across France after president Emmanuel Macron’s government narrowly survived a no-confidence vote over a controversial pension reform to raise the age of retirement, police reported on Tuesday.

Police made 234 arrests in Paris and 53 in other areas across France in protests that took place on Monday night and early on Tuesday after the government decided to force through a bill to raise the age of retirement from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote.

The move prompted opposition leaders to lodge no-confidence motions in parliament which Macron narrowly survived by 278 votes in favor, falling short of the 287 votes needed for the vote to prosper.

As the no-confidence motions were being debated in parliament, several hundred protesters gathered in a square near the National Assembly. Police evicted the demonstrators and dispersed them, prompting the protesters to flee to adjacent neighborhoods.

Several incidents were reported, such as in the Opera district where rioters lit mountains of garbage that has been piling up due to a garbage collectors strike which has been ongoing for over two weeks now.

The United Nations special rapporteur for freedom of association urged security forces to show restraint:

“I am following the ongoing demonstrations very closely and recall that peaceful demonstrations are a fundamental right that the authorities must guarantee and protect. Law enforcement officers must facilitate them and avoid excessive use of force,” Clément Voule said on Twitter.

The government has ordered striking petrol staff at one of the largest oil refineries in the country in the port of Fos-sur-Mer, in the southern department of Marseille, back to work, after dozens of gas stations ran out of fuel.

Sources from the ecology ministry said that the decision was taken amid a worsening of supply issues saying that three employees per shift were needed to restock petrol for a total period of 48 hours.

The Fos-sur-Mer facilities supply fuel to the entire Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur and Nouvelle-Aquitaine regions. The refinery is also home to an oil pipeline that connects with a Lyon terminal.

Strikes have been widespread across sectors including, transport, oil refineries and garbage collection with piles of rubbish continuing to accumulate in the largest cities.

Air traffic controllers’ strikes have grounded 20% of flights at the Parisian airport of Orly and at Marseille on both Tuesday and Wednesday.

All unions have backed a nationwide strike slated for Thursday.

As anger continues to mount Macron is due to make a televised address to the nation on Wednesday, the Elysee said.

Macron’s address will be broadcast at 12:00 GMT on TF1 and France 2, with many rumors circulating that he may announce some changes to the planned reforms to ease tensions.

The president is expected to meet prime minister Élisabeth Borne and the leaders of the three parties that support his government sometime Tuesday morning.

Macron will then host a working lunch with the presidents of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, and the Senate, Gérard Lacher, before meeting with his allies in parliament.EFE


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