1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

France's Macron defends pension law, more protests planned

April 18, 2023

French President Emmanuel Macron says he understood the anger felt in France over his pension reform plans. However, opponents said his televised speech to try and diffuse tensions only reinforced their concerns.

French President Emmanuel Macron appears on a screen, as he speaks during a special address to the nation from the Elysee Palace
Macron tasked his government to lead 100 days of action "at the service of France" to ease tensions and promote unityImage: Sarah Meyssonnier/REUTERS

French President Emmanuel Macron defended his controversial pension reform in a televised address on Monday, insisting that raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 was necessary to keep the country's pension system from collapsing.

Macron acknowledged that the reform was unpopular.

"Is this reform accepted? Obviously not. Despite months of talks, a consensus wasn't found, and I regret that. We must draw all the lessons from that," he said.

Trade unions, who have been leading protests against the reform, have, however, vowed to continue their efforts.

As Macron delivered his speech, demonstrators banged pots and pans in front of town halls across the country, and in Paris, small groups of protesters set garbage bins on fire.

Police in the city of Lyon reported that protesters lit bins on fire and hurled projectiles at officers before being driven back by tear gas, with similar scenes in other major towns.

Protesters bang on pots during a demonstration following a special address to the nation by French President Emmanuel Macron, after he signed into law the pension reform raising the retirement age
In many cities, opponents to the pension law took to the streets to bang pots and pans during Macron's televised address to the nation, with the rallying cry: 'Macron won't listen to us? We won't listen to him!'Image: Stephanie Lecocq/REUTERS

Macron promises government action plan in next 100 days

Macron signed the reform into law on Saturday, hours after France's top constitutional body cleared the change.

The Constitutional Council approved the plan after the government used an exceptional constitutional power to push the reform through the National Assembly without a final vote in mid-March.

In the lead-up to the decision, France had been rocked by general strikes and saw citizens engaged in pitched street battles with police as many aspects of daily life continue to be affected by protests and strikes.

Macron on Monday gave his government 100 days to heal the country. "Ahead of us are 100 days of appeasement, unity, ambition and action in the service of France," he said.

He announced negotiations in the coming months about "key issues" like improving employees' income, pushing professional careers forward, better sharing wealth and improving working conditions, including for older workers.

"No one, especially not me, can remain deaf to this demand for social justice," he said. "The answer can be neither in rigidity, nor in extremism," said the president, adding his "door will always be open" to talks with the unions.

France's highest court clears Macron's pension reform plans

Opponents planning further protests

Opponents dismissed his latest attempt to ease tensions and warned of mass Labor Day protests on May 1, which is International Workers' Day.

"He chose to turn his back on the French and ignore their suffering," far-right leader Marine Le Pen said.

Leftist leader Jean-Luc Melenchon said Macron was "totally out of touch with reality."

CFDT union leader Laurent Berger added that the address contained "nothing concrete" for the labor movement and said Macron had "not uttered a word" on easing tensions.

The head of the right-wing Republicans who supported the reform, Eric Ciotti, dismissed the speech as a "catalog of pious wishes" and said Macron's "method had clearly not changed."

lo/wd (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)

Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Refugees wait after crossing the border and arriving at a registration centre of the Armenian foreign affairs ministry, near the border town of Kornidzor, on September 25
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage