Your Friday Briefing: Macron Pushes Through Pension Bill

Your Friday Briefing: Macron Pushes Through Pension Bill

President Emmanuel Macron pushed through contentious legislation to raise France’s retirement age — without a full vote in parliament. The decision inflamed tensions and set the stage for a no-confidence vote against his government.

The move, which allows the retirement age to be raised to 64 from 62, drew calls for more protests after two months of mass demonstrations and strikes. In parliament, opposition lawmakers sang the national anthem and banged on their desks. On the streets, protesters pledged to continue the fight.

Macron used a constitutional measure to enact the bill without putting it to a vote in the National Assembly, the lower and more powerful house of Parliament. The upper house, the Senate, approved the bill. Macron’s party and its allies hold only a slim majority in the National Assembly and did not have enough votes to pass the bill.

The decision to avoid a vote is legal — but will be regarded by Macron’s opponents as anti-democratic. A no-confidence vote in the National Assembly is expected in the coming days, most likely on Monday, but it’s unlikely to succeed. If it did pass, it would bring down his prime minister and the cabinet, and the bill would be rejected.

The confrontation over the past months has already revealed a weakened and more isolated president as he navigates his second and final term in office. It could define Macron’s legacy, especially if the right-wing politician Marine Le Pen succeeds him.

Macron’s stance: He says France’s pension system is in “an increasingly precarious state” because retirees are living longer and their numbers are growing faster than those of today’s workers, whose taxes finance the system.

Analysis: France’s attachment to retirement is complex, touching on its history, identity and pride in social and labor rights. The country reveres retirement and a generous balance between work and leisure. In polls, roughly two-thirds of people say they disapprove of the plan.

President Andrzej Duda said that four of Poland’s MIG fighters will go to Ukraine “literally in the next few days.” It would be the first delivery of jets from a NATO country.

Duda said that the rapid delivery of the four MIGs would be followed “gradually” by more than a dozen others that Poland has in its stocks.

The delivery falls short of Ukraine’s requests for American-made F-16 fighter jets. A White House spokesman said that the U.S. still had no plans to send the warplanes, which are more advanced. “It’s not on the table right now,” he said.

In other updates: 

Yoon Suk Yeol, South Korea’s president, met with Fumio Kishida, Japan’s prime minister, in Tokyo yesterday. It was the first such visit in 12 years and came amid rising threats from China and North Korea.

Japan’s prime minister said he wanted to open a “new chapter” in relations between the two countries. And Japan’s trade ministry said that it was moving to drop restrictions on technology exports to South Korea, which had been imposed since 2019. It gave no specific date, but the announcement itself showed that the two countries were increasingly willing to cooperate.

North Korea sent a message, too. Hours before the leaders met, the country launched an intercontinental ballistic missile for the second time in a month. South Korea said the missile, fired at a steep angle, fell into waters near Japan.

Kishida: At a joint news conference, he said that he wanted to resume “shuttle diplomacy,” with high-level leaders visiting each other’s countries regularly — and that Japan and South Korea would seek to renew trilateral meetings with China.

Yoon: Last week, South Korea announced that it would drop its demand that Japanese companies compensate Korean victims of forced labor during World War II.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a time of immense pain and loss. But it also made room for change. Families came back together. Toxic relationships ended. Jobs changed.

We’re asking readers about the unexpected positive changes that came out of this difficult period. If you’d like to share a story of a silver lining, you can fill out this form. We may use your response in an upcoming newsletter.

Space fashion is getting an upgrade: NASA and Axiom Space unveiled a new spacesuit made specifically for the first manned trip to the moon in more than 50 years — scheduled for 2025.

“Astronauts are getting hip,” our fashion critic wrote.

In the age of climate change, seaweed is suddenly a hot global commodity. Long treasured in Asian kitchens, and ignored pretty much everywhere else, the marine plant is beginning to boom as a greener alternative to different materials.

In South Korea, one of the most established seaweed-growing countries in the world, farmers are struggling to keep up with growing export demand. Globally, production has grown by nearly 75 percent in the past decade, and new farms have cropped up in Maine, the Faroe Islands, Australia and the North Sea. 

One London start-up is using it to make a plastic substitute, while in Australia and Hawaii, others are experimenting with seaweed that, when fed to livestock, can cut methane from cow burps.

But some worry that the zeal to farm on the ocean may have unknown ecological risks. And seaweed itself is feeling the impact from climate change: “The water is way too hot,” a third-generation Korean seaweed farmer said. 

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