EUROPE – France’s minister of social affairs, Francois Fillon, began a European tour yesterday to study pension reform in Germany, Sweden and Finland in order to formulate ideas for France’s own pensions reform.

“Finding a model is not the key to a reform in France,” said Fillon. “But looking at the conditions in each_country allows us to form a ‘consensus’ on the issue of pensions.”

He cited Germany, Finland and Sweden as being countries where governments and unions had managed to find elements of a reform upon which all parties agreed, and said the idea of forming a consensus had “called out”.

Fillon began his tour meeting by Ulla Schmidt, Germany’s health and social minister. Today he heads to Sweden to meet Berit Andnor, minister for welfare and social security, and ends his trip tomorrow in Finland with Maija Perho, minister of social affairs and health.

Accompanying Fillon are representatives from the trade unions who will be speaking to their counterparts in the three different countries.

Fillon also hinted yesterday that part of the reforms in France will be an increase in the age of retirement. In Europe, the average age of retirement is 64, compared to 57.5 years in France. “Taking into account the European convergence, the euro etc. it will not be possible to continue with such a vast difference in age of_retirement,” said Fillon.