France’s Macron set to boost military budget despite protests over pension cuts, inequality

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed to allocate a huge chunk of the country’s budget to the military despite widespread opposition and mass protests against his pension reform plan.

Macron’s announcement of his new plan on Friday, which entails a boost of 413 billion euros ($446 billion) to the army in 2024-2030, up from 295 billion euros in the previous budget, came a day after more than a million people took to the streets to protest against his proposed reform to cut pensions deficits.

The government proposed to streamline the pension system under changes even some supporters view as risky and likely to provoke a backlash. The plan also intends to hike the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Macron’s previous attempt to implement reforms in 2019 was aborted a year later when COVID-19 hit Europe. However, it prompted mass protests and unprecedented strikes in three decades.

Macron said by increasing the military budget he wanted “to respond to the needs of the armed forces,” as the increase in the military budget would pave the way for the “transformation” needed in France’s armed forces to deal with future challenges.

“As war is changing, France has and will have armies ready for the perils of the century,” he said.

“We need to do better and do it differently,” Macron said, adding that “after repairing the armed forces, we are going to transform them.”

Macron said the budget for military intelligence would be increased by 60 percent for the same period, and he hoped to double the country’s ability to respond to major cyber attacks. He also said he wanted to increase the air defenses by 50 percent.

Macron also noted that by increasing the military budget the government also aims to meet “the expectations of a partner,” namely, NATO.

Macron’s announcement came as NATO officials gathered at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany to put together a massive arms shipment for Ukraine in an attempt to supply Kiev forces with lethal arms to be used against Russian forces.

Paris has come under criticism for not sending enough weapons to Ukraine. France is the world’s third-biggest arms exporter and the EU’s sole nuclear weapon owner after the UK withdrew from the bloc.


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