French president Emmanuel Macron has urged citizens to moan less, telling pensioners: “We don’t realise how lucky we are.”

The country would be better off if people emulated wartime leader Charles de Gaulle, he said after being harangued by voters worried about cuts to pensions.

The French government has forced pensioners to make higher social security contributions amid budget cutbacks, prompting protests.

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On a visit to the northeastern village of Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, de Gaulle’s home and burial place, Mr Macron spoke to pensioners who complained they had a low income.

The president said he had learnt from de Gaulle’s grandson that the famed general lived by the principle: “You may speak very freely but the one thing you have no right to do is complain.”

“I think the general had the right idea. The country would be different if everyone did the same,” Mr Macron told his audience.

“We don’t realise how immensely lucky we are. We are seeing more and more elderly people in our country in good health,” he added.

Last week the government unveiled billions of euros in tax relief for businesses and households, alongside budget cuts.

Pensions and welfare benefits will be shaved further in next year’s budget after Mr Macron complained in June that France spent “a crazy amount of dough” on social programmes.

Last month he suffered his lowest ever approval rating after a series of high-profile departures from his government.

The president believes he must overhaul France to make its institutions more efficient, create growth and counter the rise of far-right populism.

De Gaulle, who frequently ranks in polls as one of France’s greatest historical figures, also lost popularity as he sought to rebuild the French economy after the Second World War and reform political institutions.

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