General

French intelligence expects up to 750,000 protesters against pension reform

France's intelligence agency expects up to 750,000 people to gather on Thursday to protest against a recently proposed pension reform legislation, media reports said Wednesday.

Broadcaster Europe 1 referred to a statement by homeland intelligence that said the number of participants would be around 550,000 and 750,000 across the country in 221 demonstrations.

French intelligence dreads acts of violence, Europe 1 added, and 50,000 to 80,000 will gather in Paris, according to forecasts.

Authorities also expect 200 to 400 radical individuals to spark violence in the capital, according to the statement.

Unions representing the police will participate and Yellow Vests might seek to lash out at authorities, creating anxiety for French intelligence, said the statement.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said earlier that more than 10,000 police officers, including 3,500 in Paris, will ensure security.

He added that according to intelligence information, a group of 1,000 people in Paris are likely to spark violence, including "far-left members and ultra-yellows," referring to the violent wing of the Yellow Vests.

Government spokesman Olivier Veran, after the Council of Ministers, met Wednesday, urged opponents of the reform to not disrupt life during the strikes and demonstrations.

He acknowledged that the social movement is a "democratic form of expression" but warned: "No to blocking the country and the daily lives of the French."

Veran is not the first representative to make the call. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne last week called for "responsibility" and to "not penalize" the French and consider the daily lives of citizens.

Transport Minister Clement Beaune warned Tuesday about a "nightmare" and serious disruptions to transportation Thursday.

"I call those who can … to avoid or postpone their movement … to work from home when it's possible since it will be a very difficult Thursday in terms of public transportation," he said, expressing hope that the mobilization will not last.

National railway operator, SNCF, and Parisian regional transport operator, RATP announced serious disruptions for buses.

The French Directorate General for Civil Aviation also urged companies to preventively cancel 20% of flights planned for Jan. 19 at the Paris-Orly airport.

The pension reform project, which includes an increase to the retirement age from 62 to 64 in 2030, immediately triggered outrage from workers and unions when the government announced preparations last year.

Several unions called for demonstrations and strikes after Elisabeth Borne revealed details last week.

The eight main labor unions issued a statement last week that encouraged a nationwide strike and demonstrations Thursday.

Borne said the minimum pension would also rise to 85% of the minimum wage, meaning around €1,200 ($1,288) per month.

Starting in 2027, the change will also require at least 43 years of work to be eligible for full pensions, she said.

The draft reform is set to be presented on Jan. 23 to the Council of Ministers.

Source: Anadolu Agency