Macron pushes forward pension reform despite tensions
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that his government's controversial pension reform plan should become law "before the end of the year."
However, he added that he hoped to renew dialogues with trade unions, in order to ease tensions.
Macron said in a televised interview that the text for the pension reform, which is now due to be examined by the Constitutional Council, "will continue its democratic process."
He added: "This reform is not a luxury, it is not a pleasure, it is a necessity."
His only regret, he said, was that he had failed to convince the population of the need for the reform, which he claimed will "balance" the pension system in the future.
There are around 17 million retirees in France, and this number is set to reach 30 million by 2030.
Last Thursday, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne triggered an article of the country's Constitution that allows the government to force passage of the pension reform bill without a vote in the National Assembly.
The move led to outrage among deputies, as well as people living and working in France.
Subsequently, two motions of no confidence in the government were submitted. Although these provoked tense debates in the National Assembly, they did not lead to a majority, and political parties are more divided than ever in France.
Since last Thursday, spontaneous protests have also broken out across the country, with police deploying water cannons and tear gas to disperse demonstrators. Many protestors and NGOs have denounced what they have called an "excessive" use of force and "abusive" arrests by French police.
On Wednesday, French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti asked prosecutors for "a systematic and rapid criminal response" to protestors arrested during the demonstrations, for "serious disturbances to public order."
To ease the tensions, Macron said in Wednesday's interview: "We have to move on. We must appease, and we must rebuild a parliamentary agenda and reforms by re-engaging in a dialogue with the unions and all the political forces that are ready to do so."
France's largest union, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), has already called for mass participation in strikes and demonstrations on March 23.
Meanwhile, the CGT's culture section refused to serve a visit by the United Kingdom's King Charles III on Sunday.
The French Prime Minister laid out details of the pension reform plan in January, under which the legal retirement age would be progressively raised by three months a year from 62 to 64 by 2030, and a guaranteed minimum pension would be introduced.
Under the plan, as of 2027 at least 43 years of work would be required to be eligible for a full pension.