The Daily Telegraph
Macron could bypass parliament to push through ‘painful’ pension reforms
EMMANUEL MACRON has pledged to push ahead with pension reforms that almost derailed his first term as France’s president in an effort to convince the nation that he is not a lame duck.
Faced with tackling the fallout from the Ukraine war, an energy and livingcost crisis and summer heatwaves, the president has not engaged in meaningful reforms since his April re-election.
His agenda has been complicated by the fact that he has lost his absolute majority in the French parliament.
Late on Monday, Mr Macron announced his intent to enact pension reform by next summer, despite potential union opposition. The French must get ready for a “painful moment” that “won’t please anyone”, he said. Analysts believe steering through pension reform is his best bet to prove he has not lost his reformist mettle and avoid becoming a static head of state like his late predecessor Jacques Chirac.
The president had pledged in his manifesto to raise the official retirement age from 62 to 65, a move the opposition Left and unions see as a casus belli.
Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFDT union, warned: “If the government makes a move on age in an abrupt and brutal way… there will be very, very strong conflict.”
Mr Macron pointed to a report, due for release this week, that suggests the pension system would soon be in deficit and remain in the red for at least a decade if nothing is done.
Working longer was the only way to avoid raising taxes and to cut public debt while investing in education, health and green transition, he added.
The president’s aides say he could decide to increase the minimum number of annuities to reach a full basic pension rather than raising the minimum age required to receive a pension.
While promising to seek consensus with unions and the opposition, Mr Macron has reportedly not ruled out the “nuclear” option of bypassing a vote in parliament. Marine Le Pen, head of the hard-right opposition National Rally party, warned her 89 MPS would offer “total opposition” to reform that “gets around a proper debate on the issue”.
In his first term, Mr Macron’s attempt to merge France’s 42 separate pension schemes into a points-based “universal” system ended in failure, prompting the longest public sector strike for decades.