The week at a glance ... Europe
No retiring at 60: French workers will have to keep toiling until they are 62. The government announced this week that because of mounting deficits and an aging population, it would have to raise the retirement age from 60. The pension program is already running a deficit of nearly $40 billion a year, and the government said this was the best way to both reduce payouts and increase payroll tax intakes. The French, who cannot by law work more than 35 hours a week, are appalled. “Today is a day of sadness and anger,” said Jean-Luc Mélanchon, head of the Left Party. Labor unions immediately announced plans for general strikes.
Soldiers blamed for Bloody Sunday: British Prime Minister David Cameron has apologized for the 1972 killings of 14 Catholic demonstrators by British troops in Northern Ireland, saying an investigation proved the Bloody Sunday shootings were “both unjustified and unjustifiable.” For decades the soldiers, who were later given medals, claimed that the victims were armed IRA members who had attacked them. But the report, the result of a 12-year investigation that draws on evidence from hundreds of witnesses, concluded that the soldiers fired the first shots and targeted unarmed people, shooting some in the back. In Londonderry, scene of the massacre, families of the victims celebrated the long-awaited apology. “The victims of Bloody Sunday have been vindicated,” said Tony Doherty, whose father was killed.
Separatists rise: Belgium came a step closer to splitting up this week after a Flemish separatist party won the largest share of seats in parliamentary elections. Bart De Wever’s New Flemish Alliance took 27 of the 150 seats, while Elio Di Rupo’s Socialist Party, made up of French speakers, came in second, with 26 seats. De Wever said his long-term goal is independence for Flanders, the Dutch-speaking half of Belgium—but that it wouldn’t happen overnight. He said he would not even insist on becoming prime minister if the Socialists agreed to form a coalition with him and support his reform agenda. That means the French-speaking Di Rupo is likely to take the job, making him Belgium’s first Francophone prime minister in decades as well as Continental Europe’s first openly gay prime minister.