France strikes: Pension reform protest movement enters fourth week
As France’s national strike over pension reform enters its fourth week, trains are still cancelled and running on reduced schedules across much of the country. The government had called for a pause during the holiday season, but instead, the strike has entered its 22nd consecutive day. Roughly 50% of high-speed regional trains were operating on Thursday, an improvement from earlier this week when just 20% were operating. Transportation in Paris meanwhile continued to be heavily disrupted. Four Paris metro lines were closed and at least ten metro lines were running on reduced schedules on Thursday. The unions are opposed in varying degrees to Macron government’s retirement reform plan which includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 and moving from a system with 42 special pension plans to a universal points-based system. According to an Ipsos poll released on December 18, the approval ratings of Emmanuel Macron and his prime minister Edouard Philippe have fallen since the start of the month by around 4 points each. An Ifop poll released on December 23 found that 51% of French people supported the strike movement, down a few points from polling released earlier in the month. Some supporters have even contributed financially to the movement. A money pool in support of the CGT union reached €1.2 million on Christmas.
Turkish parliament to vote on sending troops to Libya
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government will submit a bill to allow for the deployment of Turkish forces to Libya, following a request by Tripoli to defend the city from an offensive by rival forces. Speaking to his ruling party’s officials, Erdogan said the Tripoli government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj invited Turkey to send troops under a military cooperation agreement signed recently between the two. Erdogan said the bill could be taken up by lawmakers on January 8 or 9, as soon as parliament reconvenes from a recess. Erdogan’s ruling party holds a majority in parliament, which signals the bill will easily pass in the house. Ankara’s latest move comes as the Libyan war enters a crucial stage, with eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar launching what he said would be a “final battle” for Tripoli. His offensive against Sarraj’s UN-recognised government began in April and has so far stalled outside the capital. Yet the escalation threatens to plunge the northern African country into further chaos.
Ukraine opens probe into Russian train on new bridge to Crimea
Ukrainian officials have opened a criminal investigation after a passenger train from Russia arrived in Crimea via a new Russian-built bridge, arguing that the train illegally carried people across the Ukrainian border. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday inaugurated the railway bridge to Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. He said 14 million passengers and about 13 million tons of cargo are expected to move across the bridge next year. The train arrived in Sevastopol from St. Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city. Russia annexed Crimea on the grounds that residents of the peninsula voted to join up with Russia. The annexation elicited widespread international censure including U.S. and European Union sanctions on Russia. Ukraine has blocked shipment of supplies via its territory to Crimea. The Ukrainian government has repeatedly said the new bridge was built in violation of international laws. In October 2018, prosecutors opened a criminal case against the companies involved in its construction.