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2006-04-12

French Student Leaders Hail 'Historic Victory' After Mass Protests Force Government to Abandon Controversial Youth Job Law

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In France, mass student protests and labor strikes have forced the French government to abandon a controversial new law that would have made it easier for companies to fire young workers. We speak with University of Paris professor, Gilbert Achcar. [includes rush transcript]

In France, mass student protests and labor strikes have forced the French government to abandon a controversial new law that would have made it easier for companies to fire young workers. Over the past two months, millions of students and union activists filled the streets of France’s major cities in some of the largest protests since the 1968 student uprising.

Students forced the closure of more than half of the nation’s universities including the Sorbonne which the police raided following a student sit-in.

The protests began on February 7th when students stormed the Rennes University and shut down the school.

Student leaders are hailing this as a "historic victory" but they are also pressing for greater reforms. On Tuesday, thousands continued to protest in many cities including Paris, Toulouse and Nantes. At least five schools remain closed because of student blockades.

Politically, analysts say Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has suffered most by the protests. His approval rating is now below 30 percent.

  • Gilbert Achcar, professor at the University of Paris and a frequent contributor to Le Monde Diplomatique.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Politically, analysts say Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has suffered most by the protests, his approval ratings now below 30%. He spoke on Tuesday.

DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN: The discussions held last week by the presidents of the parliamentary groups, Bernard Accoyer and Josselin de Rohan, with all the social partners and with high school and university students have led me to the conclusion that the necessary conditions of confidence and calm are not there, either among young people or companies to allow the application of the first job contract.

AMY GOODMAN: That was French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. We go now to Gilbert Achcar, who’s a professor at University of Paris. Welcome to Democracy Now!

GILBERT ACHCAR: Hi, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. The significance of the government caving in to the massive protests around France.

GILBERT ACHCAR: Yes. Well, that’s absolutely enormous. The significance is not only French, actually. It’s European and, one could even say, global in a sense. But, in a very direct sense, it’s European, because that’s part of a European-wide fight against neo-liberal reforms. And the French mass movement has inflicted the second defeat to this neo-liberal plan at the European level. The first being last year in May, on the 29th of May, when you had a majority rejecting the E.U. constitutional treaty, the European Union constitutional treaty, which was based on a neo-liberal conception of European economy.

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