French Bill Raising the Retirement Age Declared Legal

By Jamey Keaten | November 9, 2010 | 11:19 AM EST

Paris (AP) - In a political victory for President Nicolas Sarkozy, France's constitutional watchdog ruled Tuesday that the bill raising the minimum retirement age to 62 is perfectly legal.

The decision paves the way for Sarkozy to sign the reform into law, after staking his conservative party's reputation on trying to ease the burden on France's money-losing state pension system.

The Constitutional Council reviewed the measure -- which led to weeks of strikes and massive street protests around France -- and said it fully conforms to the nation's constitution.

French union workers and others angry over working longer had disrupted train and air travel, caused gas shortages and led to a garbage pileup in the southern city of Marseille. Parliament finally approved the bill Oct. 27, but France's left-leaning opposition had demanded a council review.

France's retirement reform is the latest successful push by a European government to cut back on government spending despite months of local anti-austerity strikes and protests.

This week, after a summer of discontent in Greece, the Socialist government kept a slim lead in local elections despite pushing through unpopular measures like cutting civil servants' salaries, freezing pensions and raising taxes.

Greek debt woes had sent shock waves throughout the global financial system earlier this year and led to a euro110 billion ($140 billion) bailout loan promise from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

In a few cases, anti-austerity protests have worked.

In Austria, student protests and public opposition forced the government to revise a plan that would have ended state child support in all cases at age 24 -- instead of the present 26.