Sarkozy enacts law, boasts he saved French pensions
President Nicolas Sarkozy boasted on Wednesday that his fiercely-contested decision to raise the French retirement age to 62 has saved the country's state pay-as-you-go pensions system.
Sarkozy lost no time in signing the pensions reform bill into law on Wednesday, just hours after it was approved by the constitutional court, despite opposition protests that it is an unfair and unpopular measure.
"With this law, our redistributive pension system has been saved," the president declared, arguing that without the reform France's social security fund would no longer be able to meet rising pensions costs.
"French citizens can now be assured that they can count on their retirement and that pension payments will be maintained," he insisted.
"I heard the concerns expressed during the debate, and I'm fully aware that it is a difficult reform, but I've always regarded it as my duty, and the duty of the government, to see it through," he said in a statement.
The law, seen by Sarkozy as the most important of his mandate, was published Wednesday in the Official Journal, reviving the outrage of its opponents, which has inspired nationwide strike and street protests.
"We're seeing the pursuit of brutality," declared opposition Socialist leader Martine Aubry, whose party has vowed to overturn the law if it is returned to power in 2012 presidential and legislative elections.
"The president is confusing appearance with reality, he thinks that by putting his head down and charging forward without listening, he's showing courage," she said.
"It would have been courage to put in place a reform that really solves the problem of retirement. It's just continuing brutality: 'I'm right, I'll press on harder and harder and not let a moment pass before enacting the law'."
The constitutional court gave its approval Tuesday to the law passed by parliament on October 27.
Its key measures increase the minimum pensionable retirement age from 60 to 62 and the minimum threshold for receiving a full state pension for workers who have not completed 41 years of contributions to 67 from 65.
The measures will come into effect gradually from July next year, and be fully enacted by 2018, in a reform that Sarkozy's supporters argue will save tens of billions of euros for the social security account.
The Socialists and other opposition parties had called on the court to examine the law on November 2, arguing it went against French principles of equality, but the court said in a statement that was not the case.
Unions have called a new day of action on November 23 against the law in a bid to revive weeks of protests, which have seen more than a million people march in towns and cities across France on each of eight previous days.
Action against the reforms could take the form of work stoppages, rallies or meetings, prominent French unions said on Monday.
The law, a key part of Sarkozy's reform agenda as he eyes re-election in 2012, sparked weeks of strikes and mass protests last month, and triggered longer-lasting strikes in some key sectors causing fuel shortages.
© 2010 AFP