France’s President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday addressed his country after weeks of protests and strikes over a plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
During the much-anticipated interview, televised on French national television stations, TF1 and France 2, Macron stood firmly behind his government and the very much controversial retirement plan.
Macron said his disputed pension overhaul was “necessary” to balance France’s pension system over the coming years amid shifting demographics.
“The longer we wait, the more it (the deficit) will deteriorate,” said the French president, whose government has failed to persuade the public – and indeed many economists – of the need for reform.
“This reform is necessary, it does not make me happy. I would have preferred not to do it,” he said, calling for the reform to come into force by the end of 2023.
READ ALSO: France Parliament Vote Thursday On Macron’s Pension Reforms Plans
Macron, whose support is highest among pensioners and older workers, said 1.8 million pensioners “will start seeing their pension increase by an average of 600 euros per year” as a result of the changes.
While acknowledging “legitimate protests”, the French president promised zero tolerance for violence following days of unrest triggered by his decision to bypass parliament using a special constitutional power called article 49.3.
Lawyers, magistrates and politicians from the opposition have accused police officers of making hundreds of arbitrary arrests in an attempt to stifle the anti-government protests and video footage of police brutality aimed at protesters and some journalists have raised concern.
“The crowd, whatever form it takes, has no legitimacy in the face of the people who express themselves through their elected representatives,” he said, glossing over the fact that he denied those representatives a vote on his pension reform.
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