French Government’s Efforts To Defuse Protests

A week after the adoption of the pension reform in France, President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that he wanted to “continue to reach out” to the unions, the government announcing for its part an “unprecedented security device”, in particular in Paris, for fear of violence at the demonstration on Tuesday.

On the eve of the tenth day of mobilization against this very unpopular reform, which lowers the legal retirement age from 62 to 64, the executive blew hot and cold.

The French president, whose popularity rating has collapsed, with 28% of positive opinions according to a poll published on Monday, reaffirmed before the tenors of the government and the leaders of his camp, gathered for a lunch at the presidency, his desire to resolve the situation.

We must continue to reach out to the union forces, ”said Emmanuel Macron, according to comments reported by a participant, doubling the calls for dialogue from his Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne.

The president, however, wants to talk to them about working conditions – from the hardship to the employment of seniors, through retraining – without acceding to the request of the general secretary of the CFDT union, Laurent Berger, to put the reform on “pause”. during six months.

At the same time, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, announced on Monday that an “unprecedented security device” would be deployed on Tuesday for the tenth day of mobilization against the pension reform, with “13,000 police and gendarmes, including 5,500 in Paris”.

During a press conference, he called “in this period of violence […], solemnly, each and every person calm”, and mentioned the possible arrival in Paris on Tuesday of “more than 1000 radical elements, some of whom came from abroad and others [who] were present in Sainte-Soline this weekend”.

Protesters in a Coma

The terrain of the clashes indeed moved on Saturday to Sainte-Soline, in central-western France, where a demonstration against controversial agricultural water reserves left dozens injured on both sides, with a protester still Monday between life and death.

A second injured protester in Sainte-Soline is in a coma, a source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The controversy, recurring in France, swells around a possible “excessive use of force” by the police, in the words of the Council of Europe.

The previous day of mobilization, March 23, had seen an upsurge in clashes on the sidelines of the processions, with 457 arrests and 441 police officers and gendarmes injured.

Government spokesman Olivier Véran castigated the attitude of La France insoumise, the first left-wing opposition party, and its leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whom he described as “annuitants of anger”. .

Green MP Sandrine Rousseau referred the responsibility for the violence in the demonstrations, which she condemned, to Mr. Macron and his Minister of the Interior, wondering about their possible desire to “go after the incident” by deploying “an abundance of means”.

The far-right leader Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, blamed the violence in Sainte-Soline on the “far left militias” and the “complacency” towards them of successive governments for ten years.

Tensions are far from easing on the streets in France, in a context of wage demands in Western Europe in the face of inflation, particularly in Germany and the United Kingdom.

Louvre Museum Closed

In Paris, the Louvre, the busiest museum in the world, already remained closed on Monday due to a blockage of employees.

And in the streets of the capital, affected by a garbage collectors’ strike for three weeks, the volume of uncollected waste was slowly being reduced, with 7,828 tonnes still outstanding.

The circulation of trains, planes and the Paris metro will be disrupted on Tuesday, for the tenth day of mobilization against a reform of which Emmanuel Macron says he assumes “unpopularity”.

More than 15% of service stations were already running out of gasoline or diesel on Monday, following the movement in refineries.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has also asked companies to cancel 20% of their flights at Paris-Orly, Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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