Hecklers disrupted French President Emmanuel Macron's speech outlining his vision for 'European sovereignty’.
A group of protesters interrupted French President Emmanuel Macron as he prepared to deliver a speech on the future of Europe in The Hague on Tuesday.
Some members of the audience at a theatre in the Netherlands shouted at Macron, accusing him of undemocratically forcing through his plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
Macron’s pension reforms have prompted massive protests and strikes in France. Critics were additionally angered when he used a special constitutional power last month to push the bill through parliament without a vote.
"Where is French democracy?" young protesters shouted from the gallery of the theatre, while others unfurled unfurling a banner that read "President of violence and hypocrisy" in English.
“I can answer these questions if you give me some time,” Macron responded. The protesters were quickly removed from the hall.
It’s “very important to have this type of discussion,” Macron said. “The day you consider that ‘when I disagree ... I’m the one to decide’ ... you put democracy at risk,” he added, citing the examples of rioters storming the US Capitol in 2021 and Brazil’s top government buildings earlier this year.
Around 30 young French people also meet the French president at the exit of the theatre. They chanted: "Macron we are here ... Even if Macron does not want it, we are here."
Macron's vision for European sovereignty
In his scripted speech, Macron outlined his vision for the future of European sovereignty, saying it should be based on the five pillars of competitiveness, industrial policy, protectionism, reciprocity and cooperation.
Russia’s war in Ukraine “opened probably one of the most perilous times of our European Union. Our union is said to grow stronger through the crisis but never had we faced such a threat,” Macron said.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the war “were big accelerators of this European sovereignty,” he added.
“We can set up a new economic doctrine which will allow us to reconcile creating jobs, financing our social model, dealing with climate change and being more sovereign and deciding for ourselves,” he said. “This is critical in this period when we have war and our economy is being weaponized.”
Macron's comments on China and Taiwan
The speech came after Macron raised eyebrows with his comments on Taiwan after his recent visit to China last week.
“The question we need to answer, as Europeans, is the following: Is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No,” Macron was quoted as saying in an interview published Sunday in the French newspaper Les Echos and by Politico Europe.
“The worst thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the US agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”
The remarks raised questions about whether Macron’s views are in line with the European Union’s position on China and Taiwan and whether the bloc is able to become the “third superpower” that Macron says he hopes to build within “a few years.”
The interview was given before China launched large-scale combat exercises around Taiwan that simulated sealing off the island in response to its president’s trip to the US last week.