FRANCE – Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s emotional rhetoric on French pension reform yesterday received mixed reviews from France’s politicians and institutions.

While France’s right-wing party, the UMP, congratulated the prime minister for “finally opening up the future of French pension to the French themselves” and the French employers’ organisation, Medef’s, Ernest-Antoine Seilliere welcomed the reform, Marie-George Buffet of the communist party, described the proposed reform as “bad” and “deeply regressive.”

Commented Buffet: “The prime minister put lots of emotion into his voice to explain to us his attachment to retiring at 60, and then two lines later he says exactly the opposite.”

The Socialist party agreed with the relative ambiguity and lack of body in the prime minister’s speech, saying that Raffarin “said nothing” and “the little he did say was just worrying.”

The trade union, CGT, was concerned with the avoidance of the word “negotiation”. The unions had been hoping, following their demonstration at the weekend, that the government would listen and negotiate with the social partners regarding the issue of reform, but although Raffarin said that he would be making sure there was a consensus, and that there would be “discussions”, and that all must “work together”, there was little hint that the social partners desires would be accommodated.

Indeed, it can be agreed that although Raffarin appeared to be opening up the issue of reform to public opinion, little was said in his address yesterday to the economic and social council. Raffarin suggested that greater liberty should be given so that individuals can choose when to retire, and more information should be provided, but the issue of resolving the France’s pensions crisis remains very much in the embryonic stages.