Protests, riots, violence: So, is France still a great place to live?

It hurts to see the radical fringe threatening to overwhelm the debate, putting a flame to the streets of France’s beautiful old regional cities, writes Richard Ogier

Monday 03 April 2023 13:23 BST
<p>The violence has rather drained the humour from current events in France </p>

The violence has rather drained the humour from current events in France

A joke on social media currently is that, if you can avoid the civilian unrest, France is still a great place to live: for the food, for the wine, and for the retirement at 64. Millions of Europeans plan to emigrate.

If you’ve seen images this week of black-clad young men running poles into Paris shop windows, and sworn you heard that the trigger was a plan to raise the retirement age to 64, you heard right. It is currently 62 in France. But economists say the reform, in stages to 2030, won’t balance the pension budget by that target date anyway.

So the change is modest. Yet France has gone into a blaze of strikes and protests – burning bins; allowing thousands of tonnes of rubbish to pile up in the streets; with public transport and petrol pumps severely affected. Some commentators say the strife has worsened to the point of threatening ordinary civilian peace.

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