A group of protesters interrupted on Tuesday the speech of the French president, Emmanuel Macronin The Hague, on the first day of a state visit to the Netherlands.
As he was about to deliver a speech on the future of Europe, Macron was interrupted by shouting. “Where is French democracy?” and “The climate convention is not respected,” protesters shouted from the stands, also displaying a banner that read “President of violence and hypocrisy” in English.
The French head of state briefly paused his speech until the shouting had subsided and replied that he was willing to answer the questions he was being asked if they would let him speak, and then continued with his speech on his vision of the future of the EU. “It is very important to debate,” Macron added.
The French executive faces a wave of demonstrations against the pension reform, which seeks to delay the retirement age in the country from 62 to 64 years.
During his speech, which lasted about 30 minutes, Macron defended greater autonomy for Europe at the economic level and insisted on the need to strengthen competitiveness in the continent through reforms. “We want to be open, we want allies, we want good friends, we want partners, but we always want to be in a position to be able to choose them, not depend on them,” Macron said at an event organized at the Amare center in The Hague by the Nexus Institute, institution dedicated to the study of European cultural heritage.
He also referred to the lack of competitiveness in the industrial sector, which he described as taboo. “We need this industrial policy because our competitors interfere in the market” in Europe, he stressed, calling for increased subsidies.
The French president recently defended the “strategic autonomy” of the European Union against China and the United States, after a trip to the Asian giant. His statements generated controversy and forced one of his relatives, the MEP Stéphane Séjourné, to specify that France did not remain “equidistant” between Beijing and Washington, but “obviously” is an ally of the United States.
Macron’s visit to the Netherlands is the first by a French president to the country in 23 years and will focus on European issues.
The French head of state, who has just returned from Beijing, and his wife Brigitte were received with military honors and national anthems at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam by King Willem-Alexander and his wife Máxima. Following a private reception and lunch, the royal couple will host a state dinner in their honour.
The visit of the French leader marks the rapprochement with the Netherlands. Macron also has a good personal relationship with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The countries of Eastern Europe remain very attached to NATO and to the protection of the United States and look askance at the European defense advocated by France, although Paris insists that it is complementary to the Atlantic Alliance.
With information from AFP
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