France visit by UK’s King Charles III postponed amid pension protests
(Update 1: Recasts, re-leads, alters headline, adds detail on King Charles III visit postponement)
Paris, Mar 24 (EFE).- A state visit to France by the United Kingdom’s King Charles III has been postponed as the country braces for yet more demonstrations against president Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension reforms.
The announcement from the Élysée Palace comes a day after nationwide rallies against the reforms, which raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, led to clashes between some groups of protesters and police.
“Given yesterday’s announcement of a new national day of action against pension reform on Tuesday March 28 in France, the visit of King Charles III, initially scheduled for March 26 to 29 in our country, will be postponed,” the French presidency said in a statement.
The decision was taken by the British and French governments following a telephone call between Macron and Charles “in order to be able to welcome His Majesty King Charles III under conditions that correspond to our friendly relations.”
The visit would be rescheduled as soon as possible, the statement added.
France’s interior minister Gérald Darmanin earlier said some 457 people were arrested and 441 police officers injured in clashes that erupted during mass protests across France on Thursday night.
The minister blamed the violent incidents on left-wing protesters.
“The extreme left wants to attack the Republic, and we have to send a message of condemnation,” he told CNEWS.
He added that the 12,000 police officers deployed to the over 300 marches that took place across France on Thursday were there to protect those taking part.
The French government estimates that a million people turned out to the rallies while the union organizers put that figure at 3.5 million.
The minister said 1,500 “vandals” took part in altercations in Paris, throwing Molotov cocktails, cobble stones and metal bars at the police.
The government adopted the controversial reforms using a constitutional mechanism that allowed it to bypass parliament, where it looked likely to fail.
Macron, who is in Brussels for a European Union summit, has acknowledged that the reforms are unpopular but insists they are necessary to head off France’s growing budget deficit, which is expected to reach 12.5 billion euros by 2030.
In a defiant interview on Wednesday, Macron said: “Do they think I want this reform? No.”
He pointed out that the French government has faced union opposition every time that it has tried to introduce pension reforms, and insisted his cabinet would “assume” the consequences of the unpopular changes.
“Between the long-term polls and the general interest of the country, I choose the general interest of the country. And if that has consequences, I accept them,” Macron said. EFE