France’s President Nikolas Sarkozy made it finally. Despite strong protests from millions of workers across the country, Sarkozy’s reform of the pension system became the law. The law was published in the government’s Journal Official, which means the law has come into effect.
According to the law, employees will retire at the age of 62 instead of 60. Retirees will become eligible for full pension payment at the age of 67 instead of 65, for those who have not completed 41 years of contributions. France parliament passed the law on October 27; the constitutional court approved it on November 9; and Sarkozy signed it on November 10.
The pace at which the law became effective demonstrates how the conservative government of France was eager to satisfy the financial companies. To put it in Socialist leader Martine Aubry’s words, “we are seeing the pursuit of brutality.” The Socialist party vowed to overturn the law if it comes to power in 2012 elections.
The law was challenged by the opposition parties in court, but the legal bid failed. Sarkozy claims his unpopular law will save France’s pension system as a whole. His rating is reported to be plummeted to 35 percent, the lowest since he came to power in 2007.
Unions have declared they will organize protests on November 23 against the law. They have said they will conduct work stoppages, rallies or meetings on that day.
All of this needs to be put in a continental perspective. A sovereign debt crisis developed in Greece with the revelation of the new government that its budget deficit was understated by almost half the actual figure. As rating agencies began downgrading sovereign debts of the most indebted countries in the Eurozone, such as Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain, investors around the world panicked and debt rates skyrocketed. After several heated debates and deliberations the EU and IMF announced a combined safety net worth one trillion dollar.
Wall Street investment banks did not miss the chance to cash in on betting on debts of indebted Eurozone countries. European financial conglomerates were satisfied with one trillion dollar package. But, the workers and employees became the victims with the announcement of series of austerity measures imposed by the package. Since then, European countries from Germany to Greece have been embarking on several austerity measures such as spending cuts, tax increases, and pension reforms. Financial vultures are being aided with packages while creators of wealth and finance are punished with austerity.