French President Emmanuel Macron has defended his controversial pension reform plan, saying it is necessary to balance the accounts and ensure the sustainability of the system. He said he was ready to face unpopularity and criticism, but not violence or lies.
Macron’s remarks came in a televised interview on Wednesday, amid growing anger and frustration among unions and opposition parties over his decision to use a constitutional power to force through the reform without a vote in the National Assembly.
The reform would raise the retirement age by two years to 64 and extend pension contributions for most workers. Macron said he had no regrets about his choice, arguing that there were no other viable options and that he had taken into account the concerns of different professions.
However, his opponents accused him of showing contempt and arrogance towards millions of French people who reject the reform. They said he had ignored alternative proposals from unions and experts, and had violated democratic principles by bypassing parliament.
A ninth round of nationwide strikes and protests is planned for Thursday, with unions expecting massive participation. The protests have been going on since January, with some turning violent in recent days. Garbage bins have been set on fire, petrol stations have run out of fuel due to blockades at oil refineries, and railway stations have been occupied by demonstrators.
The protests have also cast a shadow over an upcoming state visit by Britain’s King Charles next week. Some lawmakers have called for the trip to be cancelled or postponed.
Macron said he respected the right to protest peacefully, but condemned any acts of violence or vandalism. He also said he wanted to improve his dialogue with unions and civil society, and involve them more in future reforms.
He added that he was confident that his pension reform would eventually be accepted by most French people, as it would guarantee fairness and solidarity among generations.