Since March the French parliament has been sitting only in a limited form – with only a few dozen MPs in the chamber and most voting being done remotely or by proxy – and the vast majority of parliamentary time has been devoted to health and lockdown measures.
But as France continues its gradual reopening a revised schedule has been put forward and several matters that were postponed during the crisis are now back on the table.
Here's a look at the major items on the government's to-do list.
1. Pension reform
Remember that? The thing that caused France's longest running strikes since 1968 back in December and January? On January 15th, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was saying that there was “no question of slowing down or delaying” the reforms, which just goes to show that you should never make predictions.
The bill to dramatically overhaul the pension system has already been through the Assemblée nationale, but its reading in the Senate was postponed by the crisis. Unless the senators adopt all the articles without modification – which seems unlikely given how controversial it was – the bill will then have to come back to the lower house for a further reading.
In its last reading the government adopted a controversial measure known as Section 49.3 to force the bill through. There is currently no timetable for this bill to be debated again.
“Do we still need to reform pensions? Yes. […] Should it be pursued now, it will be up to the President and the Prime Minister to decide, […] but the problem remains on the table,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire told France Info on June 11th.
The Senate has its own elections in September and usually discusses finance bills in the autumn so there is some speculation that this bill might not even be presented before the end of the year.
Plans to reform pensions sparked huge strikes in December 2019 and January 2020. Photo: AFP
2. Unemployment benefits reform
The overhaul of the French benefits system comes in two parts and the first part – which tightened up access to the system and introduced a longer qualifying period – came into force last year.
The second part was due to come into force in March, but has now been postponed until September. One of its more controversial aspect was the change to the rules in how seasonal workers can claim benefits in the 'off' season, which lead to strikes in French ski resorts.
There are now consultations on this and the government will make a decision “by the summer”.
3. Bioethics bill
A bill that, among other things, extends IVF treatment to single women and lesbian couples will come back before the Assemblée nationale on July 6th for its second reading, having already gone through the Senate.
Despite polls showing that a majority of French people support the move, the bill was marked by protests from religious and socially conservative groups.
All in all, it would be fair to say that there is a challenging year ahead.