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Macron vows to press through contested reform despite social roar

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"We will go to the end" to put on ground "essential" reform to revamp debt-ridden rail sector, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged on Thursday amid persistent public opposition and rolling strikes which risk to paralyze the country at the mid-year holiday period.

"We will go to the end in the respect of each, in consideration and without any one opposes the French between them, because that's what our country is waiting for," he said during a television interview by France channel TF1.

Earlier this month, the country's key unions CGT, Unsa, Sud and CFDT started a series of month-rolling nationwide rail strikes, with a wave of two successive days out of every five days.

They planned 36 days of action for April-June period, a move that may paralyze the eurozone's second power and world's top tourism destination.

They want to prove enough force to make French president reconsider his reform of the railway sector that targets to liberalize rail passenger services and impose new rules of recruitment for "a more efficient and unified" rail operator.

Besides, it proposed to scrap preferential terms of rail workers, including retirement on full pension at 52, a decade earlier than other French employees.

Speaking to TF1, Macron called unions not to give in "to false fears", inviting them to "calm down".

"I heard them, but the right answer is not to stop reforming. It is to do it together," he added.

REFORM AMID FALLING POPULARITY

"There are worries, they are legitimate and I hear them. But, the fact that there are people sometimes not happy does not stop me," Macron said.

"I want (France) to be a country of progress for everyone. I'm asking you to trust me... When I say I'll do things I did," he added.

In a race marked more by fatigue with the country's political mainstream, the French ex-investment banker emerged winner in 2017 presidential contest with a package of reformist measures.

He vowed to serve the country well and bring change "with the conviction that (the) country needs these profound transformations to put an end to mass unemployment that we are used to, to put an end to habits that had no more justifications, to restore the strength to be fair," he said in a previous speech.

However, his economic and social roadmap was disapproved by a large slice of people, prompting a fall in approval ratings.

A recent BVA poll showed that Macron's popularity was hit by new setback in March for the third successive month, with 40 percent of respondents approved his action, down by three percentage points.

In the TV interview, the 40-year-old former economy minister affirmed that gaining back public opinion "is not an objective in itself", vowing to continue reforming at the same pace.

"The world is going too fast and our country has not done the right thing... France is a house (whose) basics must be solid so that it can hold," he said.

Macron will give a second interview to three media outlets on Sunday in an attempt to further brighten his political credentials and silent critics that consider him "the president of the rich".

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