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Protesters besiege Macron on two-day visit to Netherlands

by MIKE CORDER and SYLVIE CORBET The Associated Press | April 12, 2023 at 4:19 a.m.
A demonstrator holds a banner as French President Emmanuel Macron explains his vision on the future of Europe during a lecture in a theatre in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- French President Emmanuel Macron laid out his vision of a bold, assertive European future Tuesday, but not before anger at his domestic pension reforms boiled over once more as he began his speech in the Netherlands.

Some members of the audience at a theater in The Hague shouted at Macron, accusing him of forcing through his plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Macron's pension reforms have prompted large 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.

Protesters were quickly removed Tuesday from The Hague theater.

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 U.S. Capitol in 2021 and Brazil's top government buildings earlier this year.


Earlier in the day, before Macron laid a wreath at the national monument in Amsterdam, a small group of people protesting his pension reforms briefly held up a banner in French that read: "We will not be beaten into retirement." More protesters also demonstrated peacefully outside the theater in The Hague where he made his speech.

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 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 emphasized the concept of "strategic autonomy" for Europe which he has promoted for years. He warned of what he called the "trap" that would lead to the bloc "getting caught up in crises that are not ours." His speech in The Hague also called for Europe to become ever more self-sufficient to avoid becoming reliant on other powerful trading partners.

Macron's two-day trip to Amsterdam and The Hague is the first state visit by a French leader since Jacques Chirac 23 years ago and underscores the close links between the Netherlands and France and the two leaders.

Information for this article was contributed by Peter Dejong of The Associated Press.

  photo  French President Emmanuel Macron's wife Brigitte Macron is welcomed by Dutch Queen Maxima, right, outside the royal palace on Dam square in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. French President Emmanuel Macron begins a two-day state visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday and is making a speech on his vision for the future of Europe. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
 
 
  photo  Demonstrators opposed to the French pension reform display a banner as French President Emmanuel Macron is on a state visit to the Netherlands, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. French President Emmanuel Macron begins a two-day state visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday and is making a speech on his vision for the future of Europe. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
 
 
  photo  French President Emmanuel Macron's wife Brigitte Macron is welcomed by Dutch Queen Maxima, right, outside the royal palace on Dam square in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. French President Emmanuel Macron begins a two-day state visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday and is making a speech on his vision for the future of Europe. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
 
 
  photo  French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Dutch King Willem-Alexander listen to national anthems outside the royal palace on Dam square in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. French President Emmanuel Macron begins a two-day state visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday and is making a speech on his vision for the future of Europe. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
 
 
  photo  French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Dutch King Willem-Alexander listen to national anthems outside the royal palace on Dam square in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. French President Emmanuel Macron begins a two-day state visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday and is making a speech on his vision for the future of Europe. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
 
 
  photo  French President Emmanuel Macron explains his vision on the future of Europe during a lecture in a theatre in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
 
 
  photo  French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and his wife Brigitte Macron are welcomed by Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima outside the royal palace on Dam square in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. French President Emmanuel Macron begins a two-day state visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday and is making a speech on his vision for the future of Europe. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
 
 
  photo  French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron attend a wreath laying ceremony in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. French President Emmanuel Macron begins a two-day state visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday and is making a speech on his vision for the future of Europe. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
 
 
  photo  French President Emmanuel Macron, second left, his wife Brigitte Macron, right, Dutch King Willem-Alexander, right, and Queen Maxima listen to national anthems outside the royal palace on Dam square in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. French President Emmanuel Macron begins a two-day state visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday and is making a speech on his vision for the future of Europe. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
 
 

Print Headline: Protesters besiege Macron on two-day visit to Netherlands

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