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Youth-Jobs Law Protests Bring Paris to a Standstill

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

The Prime Minister says he will modify the law, but refuses to repeal it. Eleanor Beardsley reports from Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD SOUNDS)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Forty-five year old insurance broker Eric Ricco.

ERIC RICCO: (Through translator) Every one is out here now, students, trade unions and political parties, and Villepin doesn't really have a choice now. He decided on this law in an abrupt fashion without consulting anyone, and now he has to withdraw it. And if he doesn't, there could be riots again, like in 1968.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHEERING)

BEARDSLEY: Today's protesters also included striking workers who took off from the banking, postal and transport sectors. Air France employee Jerha Bezea (ph) says institutionalizing insecurity doesn't create jobs.

JERHA BEZEA: (Through translator) Air France had a billion Euros in profits. You don't think they can invest some of that in creating jobs instead of hiring people part-time in precarious contracts? No. We have to create stable and long-term jobs for people in France. This is the way to get the economy going.

BEARDSLEY: Villepin had staked his career and presidential ambitions on lowering French unemployment. Instead, his popularity has plummeted, and his government is mired in crisis. Nichole Basherone (ph) is with the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. She says the fiasco has only highlighted the Prime Minister's arrogance and distance from the French people.

NICHOLE BASHERONE: He has great disdain for Parliament and trade unions and negotiation with little people, and you know, he has a obviously a great idea of himself. A big fan of Napoleon, and he loves, you know, getting applauded in the United Nations, and he thought, obviously, that he was going to come in with a plan to fight unemployment and get unemployment numbers down, but in a way that nobody before him did and he would show them. Well this is it.

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley, in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
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