Let’s just say that when France’s fiscal crunch time comes, as it has for Greece and Spain already, it’s going to be inordinately difficult to push through austerity measures. Probably more so than most European nations.
Strikes are already breaking out, just this Thursday, against raising the retirement age past 60 years:
“What happens today will be fairly decisive for how things develop,” said Bernard Thibault, leader of the CGT, the largest of the broad coalition of trade unions organising the national protest.
“I’d like to see us exceed the mobilisation we achieved on March 23,” he told Europe 1 radio, referring to France’s last large-scale labour protest, when unions estimated turnout at 800,000 and the police at 350,000.
Two-thirds of voters in France said they were ready to joined the new rallies, according to polls conducted by Le Parisien and L’Humanite. Sarkozy is thus terrified to even speak of tightening the belt right now:
Many of France’s neighbours have announced harsh spending cuts but Sarkozy, who is suffering record unpopularity and faces a re-election fight in two years, has been cautious, refusing to speak of an austerity programme.
Nevertheless, this week ministers confirmed what had long been suspected: that he plans to abolish retirement at 60, a cherished symbol for the French left of its victories under late president Francois Mitterrand.
When the real austerity cuts come, average French perceptions better have changed (hopefully after seeing what’s happening in other nations right now), else the public push-back will unimaginable.