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French premier says president asked her to draft gov't program

French premier says president asked her to draft gov't program
Elisabeth Borne says her aim is to appease country, while mass mobilization against pension reform continues

By Nur Asena Erturk

ANKARA (AA) - The French president asked to draft a government program, according to the prime minister.

While France was shaken by mass mobilization and violent protests since January, the government's last move to adopt the pension reform by force has deepened the issue and intensified the French workers' furor.

President Emmanuel Macron's speeches did not appease the social tension. Macron met with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and parliamentary officials, the latest on Monday.

After the meeting, Borne said on Twitter: "President Emmanuel Macron asked me to build a government program and a new legislative program."

Borne added that she will consult parliamentary officials, local elected authorities, party leaders, and social partners.

"My aim: appease the country (…) and accelerate the reforms," she explained.

- Trade unions' stance

Trade unions are firmly rejecting the pension reform that is now under constitutional examination.

The unions on March 9 asked to be "received urgently" by Macron, but the French leader openly refused the demand, while adding that he does not underestimate people's discontent.

The president invited the unions to respect the parliamentary process – which he decided to bypass the following week.

The trade union French Democratic Confederation of Labor leader Laurent Berger called on Macron to "pause" the adoption of the reform, and the president announced he is ready for dialogue.

"I am at the disposal of the trade unions if they want to come to see me," to discuss subjects regarding the working conditions, he said, without evoking a pause or withdrawal, as the trade unions would have preferred.

Berger on Tuesday told the broadcaster France Inter that the unions will write a new letter to Macron to suggest suspending the reform and launch a mediation process.

"We need appeasement," he said.

- Pension reform plan, source of popular furor

The French government used special constitutional powers on March 16 to force the plan through, prompting opposing parties to submit no-confidence motions that were later rejected.

Macron and Borne decided to invoke Article 49.3 of the constitution, a mechanism that lets the government adopt a draft bill without parliamentary approval.

The decision was driven by fear that lawmakers would be able to block the reforms as the government does not hold an absolute majority in the legislature.

The government revealed the reform project in January and parliament started examining and debating the draft bill the following month.

Workers and trade unions have since expressed growing outrage by holding demonstrations and walkouts.

The reform project includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030, requiring at least 43 years of work to be eligible for a full pension.

source: News Feed
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