(Amsterdam) French President Emmanuel Macron, again overtaken on Wednesday in the Netherlands by protests against his pension reform, replied that it was necessary to “sometimes accept controversy” to “build paths for the future”.
“We are carrying out difficult reforms in the Netherlands, as in France, which sometimes arouse protests”, “anxieties” aroused by “epochal changes”, he conceded to the French community in Amsterdam.
“You have to accept controversy sometimes and you have to try to build paths for the future,” he added.
His state visit, the first by a French president to the Netherlands in 23 years, was again disrupted on Wednesday by a few dozen protesters.
Two of them, a man and a woman, were arrested for “disturbing public order and threatening” as they “ran” towards him upon his arrival at the University of Amsterdam, a source told AFP Lex van Liebergen, police spokesman.
TV images show the man stopped in his tracks by Emmanuel Macron’s aide-de-camp and brutally tackled to the ground near the president, who is facing very strong protest in France due to the pension reform.
“For the honor of the workers, even if Macron does not want to, we are here”, he had time to chant, taking up the song of the anti-Macron protesters in France, before being taken away from strength.
The incident happened when the president had just gotten out of a limousine with the King of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander to visit a quantum physics laboratory. One of the arrested protesters had a banner, Van Liebergen added.
About 40 demonstrators were also waiting for him when he left university, waving two banners – including the same as the day before in The Hague stating “President of violence and hypocrisy” – and placards.
One of them, French and studying social sciences in Amsterdam, presented himself to journalists as a libertarian. He explained that he wanted to denounce police “violence” during demonstrations in France and “spoil” the president’s visit.
Emmanuel Macron had already been interrupted the day before, on the first day of his visit, during a speech on Europe in The Hague.
He then replied that if democracy was synonymous with the right to demonstrate, it was also put “in danger” when the law is no longer respected.
Emmanuel Macron visited the university’s quantum physics laboratory with the king, a promising technology intended to increase the computing power of computers.
The two governments then signed an “innovation pact”, leading to cooperation in semiconductors, quantum physics and energy, all areas in which the European Union intends to strengthen its independence.
The two governments are also working on finalizing a defense agreement by 2024.
Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will give a press conference at the end of the afternoon during which the Head of State will probably be questioned about the controversial remarks he made on Taiwan. In particular, he argued that Europe should not be “follower” by the United States or China.
The president “fully assumes his point”, has already announced a French diplomatic source: “We are not followers of the United States for a simple reason which is that the president wants European sovereignty”, underlined this source.
“We are allies of the United States, reliable, strong, committed allies, but we are allies who decide for ourselves,” she said.
Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte, accompanied by King and Queen Maxima, will then visit the Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, before returning to Paris.