«France in moral crisis. Right to reform pensions. Macron's game is dangerous»- Corriere.it

«France in moral crisis.  Right to reform pensions.  Macron's game is dangerous»- Corriere.it

Of Stephen Montefiori

The former socialist prime minister: a lightning rod, but he's going against everyone. The president stuck at 64 and fails to offer the French a sense of the whole

Courage guided their steps, is the title of the new book by Manuel Valls, in which the former socialist premier reflects on the legacy of the greats of history, from Georges Clemenceau to Charles de Gaulle, from Winston Churchill to Albert Camus.

And Emmanuel Macron? By wanting to impose a pension reform that the French reject, are you showing more courage or stubbornness?

Courage does not mean brutality. Of course, the pension system needed to be reformed. But not like this. I would have preferred a points system, extending the years of contributions.

That was Macron's initial project, wasn't it?

It was our plan, of the social democratic left, when we were in government, it was the plan of the reformist union CFDT, and also the one Macron was thinking of during his first term. Then he changed his mind.

Would you have voted for the passage of your pension from 62 to 64 if you had the chance?

Yes, for financial and demographic reasons. However, the government preferred to resort to article 49.3 and avoid the vote, in a context of great social tensions, unrest after Covid, inflation and difficulties at the end of the month. Having against all the unions, even the reformist ones, and in the midst of a moral crisis in the country. dangerous to play with such things in a democracy like ours.

You speak of the moral crisis of France. What does it mean? And why such a clear refusal of 64 years, when elsewhere, in Europe, for example in Italy, the threshold for the pension is 67?

It should be remembered that the French often pay contributions for more years than others. However, we are living in a paradox: the economy is doing well, we are attracting foreign investment, unemployment has never been so low, yet the French are unhappy. The criticism of the quarrels and the advance of populisms of the right and left unites us with other peoples, but it takes a particular form for us because we are a centralized country, where the institutions are strong. Sacred politics, in France. There is the idea that the president can and should solve any problem. And when there is a doubt about politics, France doubts itself. The president is like a lightning rod, attracting all the wrath.

For decades unemployment has been talked about as the most serious problem, the absolute priority, it seemed impossible to go below 10%. We are now at a rate of 7%, yet discontent is rampant.

In my opinion we are witnessing a disturbing disconnect, the one between the great epochal problems we are experiencing and the concerns, albeit legitimate, of the French. On the one hand geopolitics, the war in Europe, the conflict between democracies and authoritarianism, and still the energy transition, work and immigration; on the other, the French who instead focus on purchasing power and the refusal to retire two years later.

No, I don't think so. The responsibility of politicians. President Macron, who is a man of great political and intellectual qualities and who got my vote, is stuck at 64 and is unable to offer the French an overall meaning.

Macron's tug of war on pensions like Thatcher's in 1985 with the miners?

They are incomparable situations. The UK was on the verge of bankruptcy then, France is different today. The fact that Laurent Berger, the reformist union leader, also takes to the streets, indicates that there was no listening. Touching pensions is always difficult, it must be done with the support of at least a part of society. We must reform, but not against everyone. A reform judged to be unjust cannot be imposed, and without inserting it into a broader vision.

March 19, 2023 (change March 19, 2023 | 21:51)

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