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Summary

France’s Parliament froze the pensions of military veterans from France’s former colonies in 1959.  French courts in 2001 and 2010 ruled this practice to be contrary to antidiscrimination laws.

In 2011, the Parliament adopted legislation to unfreeze the pensions of colonial military veterans.  Noncitizen veterans or their beneficiaries were given the opportunity from December 31, 2010, to December 31, 2014, to submit requests to have their pensions revised.  Those who failed to submit requests within this period did not benefit from increases in their pensions.

Further legislation was adopted in 2015 to eliminate any remaining discriminatory legislation and expressly provide for the pensions of a number of groups that had previously been excluded.

I.  Introduction

Veterans’ benefits in France are principally governed by the Code of Military Disability and War Victims’ Pensions (Code des pensions militaires d’invalidité et des victimes de la guerre)[1] and the Civil and Military Retirement Pensions Code (Code des pensions civiles et militaires de retraite).[2]  Veterans are able to avail themselves of the Title of the Nation’s Gratitude (Titre de reconnaissance de la Nation), a combatant’s card (carte du combattant), a war pensioner’s disability card (carte d’invalidité des pensionnés de guerre), and a combatant’s retirement (retraite du combatant).[3]

In 1959, the French Parliament redefined colonial military veterans’ pensions as “retirement allowances” owing to the accession to independence of the veterans’ countries.  The veterans’ pension rates were thus frozen, or “crystallized.”[4]

Rulings by the Conseil d’Etat (France’s highest administrative court) in 2001[5] and by the Conseil Constitutionnel (France’s constitutional court) in 2010[6] established that the law was discriminatory.  Reforms were consequently passed, in a process often referred to as the “decrystallization” of pensions.

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II.  Decrystallization of Veterans’ Benefits for Noncitizens

The 2011 Budget Law, which entered into force on January 1, 2011, repealed the crystallizing laws and harmonized the means of calculating the veterans’ pensions of French nationals and nonnationals.[7]

Article 211 of the Budget Law harmonizes the value and indexation of military disability pensions, combatant’s retirement, and civil and military retirement pensions for both foreign-national and French veterans.[8]  It also provides for the harmonization of the “pension calculation indicators” for military disability pensions, civil and military retirement pensions, and combatant’s retirement for foreign-national and French veterans.[9]

The Budget Law specified that the pension would be revised only from the date of the request, meaning the veteran, or his/her beneficiaries, could recover the increased value of the pension only from the date of the request onwards, and not retroactively.[10]  Subsequent legislation clarified that the interested parties—meaning the veterans or, in certain cases, their widows and/or children—must have submitted a request to have the pension revised by December 31, 2014.[11]

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III.  Elimination of Discrimination Based on Nationality

New legislation was adopted in December 2015 to repeal a number of residual discriminatory provisions and explicitly award benefits to groups that had been previously excluded.[12]  This legislation is scheduled to enter into effect no later than January 1, 2017.[13]  Among other measures, it will eliminate rules that suspended a person’s rights to a military disability pension and to a combatant’s retirement when that person lost or renounced his/her French citizenship.[14]  It will also add a provision to the Code of Military Disability and War Victims’ Pensions to extend benefits to North African auxiliary troops who participated in World War II and the colonial conflicts in Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco between 1952 and 1962.[15]

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Prepared by Nicolas Boring
Foreign Law Specialist
October 2016


[1] Code des pensions militaires d’invalidité et des victimes de la guerre [Code of Military Disability and War Victims’ Pensions], https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichCode.do?cidTexte=LEGITEXT00000 6074068, archived at https://perma.cc/SJE8-EHX7.

[2] Code des pensions civiles et militaires de retraite [Civil and Military Retirement Pensions Code], https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichCode.do?cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006070302, archived at https://perma.cc/ Y679-4VL6.

[3] Anciens Combattants [Veterans], Service-Public.fr (official website of the French administration), https://www. service-public.fr/particuliers/vosdroits/N30 (last visited Oct. 12, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/8LGK-F6YC.

[4] Loi no. 59-1454 du 26 décembre 1959 portant loi de finances pour 1960 [Law No. 59-1454 of the 26th of December 1959 Relating to the Law of Finances for 1960], Journal Officiel de la République Française [J.O.], Dec. 29, 1959, p. 12372, https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/jo_pdf.do?id=JORFTEXT000000874213, archived at https://perma.cc/4D8F-L66M.

[6] Conseil Constitutionnel [Constitutional Court], Décision no. 2010-1 QPC du 28 mai 2010 [Decision No. 2010-1 Constitutional Priority Question of May 28, 2010], http://www.conseil-constitutionnel.fr/conseil-constitutionnel/ root/bank/pdf/conseil-constitutionnel-48290.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/4WZJ-C23B.

[7] Loi no. 2010-1657 du 29 décembre 2010 de finances pour 2011 [Law No. 2010-1657 of the 29th December 2010 on Finances for 2011], https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000023314376& categorieLien=id, archived at https://perma.cc/M6AK-DEMB.

[8] Id. art. 211.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.; Derrière la victoire politique, une nouvelle stratégie de spoliation [Behind the Political Victory, a New Spoliation], GISTI (Feb. 10, 2011), http://www.gisti.org/spip.php?article2246, archived at https://perma.cc/3FJM-AAMM.

[11] Décret no. 2010-1691 du 30 décembre 2010 pris en application de l’article 211 de la loi no. 2010-1657 du 29 décembre 2010 de finances pour 2011 [Decree No. 2010-1691 of the 30th of December 2010 Adopted Pursuant to Article 211 of Law No. 2010-1657 of the 29th of December 2010 on Finances for 2011], art 1, https://www.legi france.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000023332073&categorieLien=id, archived at https://perma. cc/2R5M-F6RL; Loi no. 2013-1278 du 29 décembre 2013 de finances pour 2014 [Law No. 2013-1278 of the 29th of December 2013 on Finances for 2014], art. 111, https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORF TEXT000028399511&categorieLien=id, archived at https://perma.cc/WL7P-ZPKF; L’Association de Labadissi et al., Anciens Combattants – Faites valoir vos droits [Veterans – Claim Your Rights], http://www.gisti.org/IMG/pdf/ faire-valoir-ses-droits-anciens_combattants-fr.pdf (last visited Oct. 27, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/W6PQ-8S6T.

[12] Ordonnance no. 2015-1781 du 28 décembre 2015 relative à la partie législative du code des pensions militaires d’invalidité et des victimes de guerre [Ordinance No. 2015-1781 of the 28th of December 2015 Relating to the Legislative Part of the Military Disability Pensions and War Victims Code], https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affich Texte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000031702175&categorieLien=id, archived at https://perma.cc/QFE5-FYM7.

[13] Ordonnance no. 2015-1781 du 28 décembre 2015, art. 8.

[14] Ministère de la défense [Ministry of Defence], Rapport à l’ordonnance 2015-1781 du 28 décembre 2015 relative à la partie législative du code des pensions militaires d’invalidité et des victimes de guerre [Report for Ordinance No. 2015-1781 of the 28th of December 2015 Relating to the Legislative Part of the Military Disability Pensions and War Victims’ Code] ¶ 3.4, https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/jo_ pdf.do?id=JORFTEXT000031702142, archived at https://perma.cc/576B-96R2.

[15] Ordonnance no. 2015-1781 du 28 décembre 2015, Annex, art. L111-3.

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Last Updated: 11/08/2016