Emmanuel Macron admitted tonight that raising France’s retirement age from 62 to 64 was ‘not accepted’ – but said there would be no reversal after weeks of strikes and riots.
The embattled president appeared on a pre-recorded nationwide TV broadcast Thursday night, three days after his controversial pension plans passed into law without a parliamentary vote.
“Has this reform been accepted?” Mr Macron asked during the 12-minute speech. ‘Obviously not. Despite months of negotiations, no consensus has been reached and I regret that.’
He said he “heard the anger of the French” and added “no one can turn a deaf ear to it.”
French President Emmanuel Macron during a televised address to the nation delivered from the Elysee Palace after signing a pension reform in Paris on April 17, 2023
Pedestrians walk past burning bins after a concert of pans to protest during French President Emmanuel Macron’s televised address to the nation, in Paris on April 17, 2023
President Macron said there was “anger about jobs that, for many French people, no longer allow them to live well, given rising prices for fuel, shopping, canteens.
“There is anger because some feel they are doing their part, but without being rewarded for their efforts, either in pay or in effective public services.”
But Macron insisted there would be no change in his policies, saying the reform was “necessary to guarantee pensions and produce more wealth for our nation,” and for France to stay aligned with its European neighbours.
Within minutes of Macron’s speech, illegal protests were underway as riot police fought to restore order.
A crowd marched through the Republican quarter of Paris chanting “Macron resign!” chanted, lighting fires and smashing windows.
There were similar scenes around the Hotel de Ville – the city hall of Paris – where another illegal protest erupted.
Some were beating casseroles – a traditional means of showing anger in France, while others fired at police using projectiles.
Police in Marseille, Toulouse and Nantes reported similar disturbances.
Last Thursday, a mob stormed the Paris headquarters of luxury group LVMH, which is led by Bernard Arnault, the richest man in the world.
There were also widespread riots around Bastille Square – the scene of the original 1789 revolution – and in other cities and towns across the country.
Opposition politicians and trade unions spent the weekend attacking what they see as the cavalier imposition of a two-year increase in the retirement age to 64, when an estimated 70 percent of the population rejected it in opinion polls.
Marine Le Pen, of the far-right National Rally, called for a referendum on reform, the dissolution of parliament or Macron’s resignation.
Élisabeth Borne, the prime minister, was “totally destroyed” and the government had lost all credibility, Ms Le Pen said.
And Olivier Faure, leader of the Socialist Party, said the opposition was “not ready to move on to other things.”
Protesters march by burning trash cans as they demonstrate after French President Emmanuel Macron attempted to ease tensions in a televised address to the nation on Monday
French police perform at a demonstration following a special address to the nation by Macron in Paris, France, April 17
While sporadic protests took place across the country today, unions urged the public to turn May Day workers’ rallies into giant protests against pension reform.
“It will be a tidal wave of historic proportions,” said Sophie Binet, leader of the CGT union.
And Laurent Berger, head of the CFDT, the largest union, said, “Let’s bring the house down on May 1.”
The retirement age in Great Britain is 66, in Germany and Italy 67 and in Spain 65.