PARIS (Reuters) – France needs to “go through a healing period” after weeks of sometimes violent street protests against plans to raise the retirement age, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said, though she offered no clear path out of the political turmoil.
The protests, which began as a trade union-led movement against President Emmanuel Macron’s contested pension reform, has coalesced widespread anger against Macron himself after he avoided putting the legislation to a final vote in parliament.
Although lower numbers in street marches across France on Thursday indicated the protests may be losing steam, the reform is deeply unpopular and underlined Macron’s weakened position now that he is shorn of a working majority in parliament.
“We must be extremely careful not to push things. We must let things rest…The country needs appeasement,” Borne told Le Monde in an interview published on Friday.
Macron and his government want to lift the legal retirement age by two years to 64 to prevent the pension budget from falling deep into deficit. Trade unions say the money can be found elsewhere.
Union leaders and protesters say the only way out of the crisis is for the legislation to be scrapped – an option the government has repeatedly rejected.
“If you really want appeasement, you must shelve this reform,” Laurent Berger, the head of the moderate CFDT union, told BFM television on Friday.
Opponents of the bill are now waiting for the Constitutional Council to give its verdict on the bill on April 14. The council has the power to strike down the bill – or parts of it – if it deems it to breach the constitution, but rarely rejects an entire piece of legislation.
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Elisabeth Pineau, Jean-Stephane Brosse, editing by Mark Heinrich)
Protesters hold flags of French labour unions as they walk on a country road in Beauvoir towards the Mont Saint-Michel to block the access to the renowned tourist site during a demonstration against French government’s pension reform, in the French western region of Normandy, France, April 7, 2023. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe