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France’s Constitutional Council approves key elements of pension reform

A protester in Paris, France, holds a placard that reads Macron's pension - no! up

The top guardians of the constitution approved raising the retirement age from 62 to 64. They rejected other points of President Emmanuel Macron’s most important reform project.

It was a clear “Yes, but” with which the members of the French Constitutional Council, the Conseil Constitutional,  judged the French government’s controversial pension reform. The Constitutional Council rejected a number of subsidiary aspects of the reform. He also rejected a request by the left-wing opposition for a referendum on the reform. However, he agreed to the most important point, raising the retirement age from 62 to 64. In France, there are no appeals against decisions of the Constitutional Council.

With the fundamental declaration of the reform as largely constitutional, French President Emmanuel Macron now has two weeks to sign the law in order for it to come into force. According to Macron’s plans, the pension reform law should take effect by September.

Further protests against pension reform expected 

Trade unions and opposition representatives have already announced resistance, and numerous protests are expected across the country that evening – because the anger of many reform opponents is directed at the core of the reform, namely raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 years.

Several armed police officers stand in front of the French Constitutional Council building in Paris, France

The building of the French Constitutional Council in Paris had been cordoned off before the verdict on the highly controversial pension reform

The protests continued on the day of the decision. A demonstration march started in Paris at noon. For fear of possible riots, security forces had largely cordoned off the building of the Constitutional Council in Paris. The neighboring playhouse Comédie Française canceled its evening performances. Protests were also planned in several other cities. Roads were again blocked across the country.

Pension reform ruling is a win for President Macron 

Since the law was passed through a legal constitutional gimmick, the protests had become increasingly radical over the past few weeks. According to surveys, more than two-thirds of the French reject the pension reform.

The government and opposition also had a heated exchange of blows in parliament over the pension reform. In order to avoid an imminent defeat, the government decided at the last minute to push the reform without a final vote by the National Assembly. Left and right-wing national MPs, left-wing senators, and Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne then called the Constitutional Council.

For Macron it is a success in the month-long dispute over the reform. His central government wants to use the reform to prevent an impending hole in the pension fund. The payment period for a full pension should increase more quickly. 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 will be a pension without a deduction, regardless of how long it has been paid in – it should stay that way.

Emmanuel Macron wants to approach unions

Macron had already announced that he would seek contact with the unions again after the Constitutional Council’s decision. In doing so, the government relies more on the moderate CFDT than on the CGT. Their new boss, Sophie Binet, responded to the offer to talk with “LOL”, which translates as “I’m laughing my ass off”.

In renewed negotiations, the government could, for example, offer to expand the social measures and initiate them in another labor law.

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