April 13. 2024. 5:18

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Neighbours divided over Macron’s pension reform push

The political crisis French President Emmanuel Macron and his government face after pushing through a highly unpopular pension reform has provoked reactions from politicians in neighbouring Italy and Germany, with some suggesting that France should review elements of its constitution, while others believe reform was legitimate and necessary.

The French government pushed through its pension reform without a National Assembly vote last week and on Monday survived two no-confidence votes. While organised protests and spontaneous rallies have been going on for some time, intensifying after 12 March, they gained new momentum on Monday as protestors clashed with police and set fire to objects, including bins.

Italy was following “the situation very closely”, Italian MP Alessandro Battilocchio (Forza Italia, affiliated to the centre-right EPP) and member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s majority told EURACTIV Italy.

While he expressed “concern about the clashes in Paris”, he added that Macron and the prime minister, both of whom he says are legitimate as they received the “popular mandate”, are “moving on the basis of what the Constitution provides”.

“The vote that took place yesterday in parliament speaks clearly, and protests are part of democracy, but only if non-violent,” he added.

This sentiment was echoed on the side of Matteo Salvini’s Lega (affiliated to ID), with the party’s leader in the European Parliament, MEP Marco Campomenosi, saying he considers the protests to be legitimate as long as they are non-violent.

He would have even “preferred to see these protests during the terrible experience of the Monti government in Italy”, during which “reforms and various austerity demands dictated by the EU” were adopted.

For him, these policies have shown that they “do not serve to create development and growth, but rather slow them down, with negative social consequences that, unfortunately, it is often the poorer classes that have to pay for”.

But for Anna Deparnay-Grunenberg, a Franco-German MEP from the German Green Party, the problem is broader.

While she believes the president to be “under pressure”, she is also convinced that the French political system needs reforming, particularly as “pushing through a law against the will of the population” is allowed.

“Macron should finally seek dialogue with the representatives affected,” the Green MEP told EURACTIV Germany.

Liberal FDP MP Michael Link, whose party is also in the ruling coalition views things differently.

According to him, Macron’s reform is “imperative for preserving the French pension system”. Thus “it was necessary that Macron, despite massive headwinds, brought the adjustments through the National Assembly with a special article of the Constitution,” he added.

The EU can “breathe a sigh of relief for the time being with the failure of the no-confidence motions against Macron”, he said, hoping “the situation in France will calm down again.”

About Macron’s future, MEP Sandro Gozi (Italia Viva and Renaissance, Renew) told EURACTIV Italy that the French president would not be weakened by the political crisis and that his leadership would grow even more in 2024.

A similar view is shared by Battilocchio from the liberal right, who does not believe “Macron is weakened, but it is clear that the results of the next elections will confirm or not the goodness of his recipes”.

Campomenosi, whose party is also part of the government coalition, believes the opposite.

Macron “has shown that he does not know how to understand the complex social dynamics within France, he has wanted to impose austerity choices on a country that does not follow him”, he said.

The image of the French president “had already been noticeably on the wane for many years, even though the mainstream media […] have supported and accompanied him almost totally, always opposing Marine Le Pen and in fact preventing her from winning,” he added.

According to Gozi, “a little more ‘Italian parliamentary culture’ would have helped within the French National Assembly”.

Meanwhile, trade unions have called a day of nationwide strikes and protests on Thursday to oppose Macron’s pension reform bill, which has been brought before the Constitutional Court for examination and could have some provisions stricken out before it is promulgated and comes into force.

(Davide Basso | EURACTIV.fr – Oliver Noyan from EURACTIV.de and Federica Pascale from EURACTIV.it contributed to reporting)