Paris (CNN) Security tighten in place at The French capital, Paris As the country prepares for a decisive ruling on the constitutionality of divisive changes to France’s pension system.
The Paris Constitutional Council, the French equivalent of the US Supreme Court, is immune to the decision, which can see The retirement age in France Raised from 62 to 64.
An expert on French constitutional law told CNN that the police operation to protect the court is unprecedented. “As far back as I can remember, I’ve never seen pictures like this,” said Laureline Fontaine.
Massive protests have paralyzed key services across the country this year over French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal, a move that angered opposition lawmakers and unions. Uncollected rubbish piled up in the streets of Paris.
There are several possible outcomes of Friday’s ruling. If the law is greenlit, it will go into effect in September. The first retirees will have to wait an additional three months for their state pensions. With steady incremental increases, by 2030 the retirement age will be 64.
There can also be a partial strike. If only a portion of it is deemed unconstitutional, the court can choose to pass the remainder of the legislation into law. This will likely be seen as a win for Macron, who will then be able to offer dialogue to the trade unions.
If a court finds a law unconstitutional, it cannot be enacted. This is unlikely and would be a political earthquake for Macron, whose government has pushed through legislation without a direct vote using special constitutional powers.
The assembly will also decide on Friday whether to allow a referendum on the law, which the opposition has called for.
Macron has argued that reforms are needed to rein in public finances, and he remained steadfast this week, saying “the country must keep moving forward”.
Thursday marks the 12th day of nationwide protests against the proposals. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets, but the turnout in the Interior Ministry – 380,000 – was about 200,000 lower than in the previous round of protests.
Some protesters in Paris forced their way into headquarters Luxury giant LVMHA trade union leader told CNN, “If Macron wants to find money to fund the pension system, he needs to come here to find it.”
The protests were mostly peaceful but also witnessed violent clashes.
France’s high retirement age will remain below the norm in Europe and in many other developed economies, with the full retirement age at 65 and increasingly moving towards 67.
In the United States and the United Kingdom, the retirement age is between 66 and 67, depending on the year you were born. Current legislation envisions a further increase from 67 to 68 in Britain between 2044 and 2046 (although the timing of this increase is under review and could change).
State pensions in France are also more generous than anywhere else. At nearly 14% of GDP in 2018, the country’s spending on state pensions is greater than in most other countries, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Saskia Vandoorne reported in Paris, Sophie Tanno wrote in London. CNN’s Xiaofei Xu and Oliver Briscoe contributed reporting.
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