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France’s Macron faces protest during speech in Netherlands

During a Tuesday speech in the Netherlands, French President Emmanuel Macron faced angry jeering from a group of protesters, according to local media.

The Dutch News said that while Macron was outlining his vision for the future of Europe at the Nexus Institute at The Hague, protesters unfurled a banner reading “President of violence and hypocrisy” and shouted out, “Where is French democracy? Where did we lose it?”

A major source of their anger was a controversial French pension reform bill, recently passed by an end-run maneuver that bypassed a parliamentary vote, and police violence against demonstrators protesting the measure.

“You have millions of people in the streets, conventions of climate have been put aside, what can you say when you talk about Europe?” one protester shouted out.

As the demonstrators interrupted his speech, Macron tried to respond but he was drowned out. Security guards took the protesters out of the lecture hall by force.

Once the protesters had been removed, Macron resumed his speech, stating: “It is very important to debate.”

Macron went on to defend the pension reform bill and the decision to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030.

He added that the retirement age is even higher in some European countries, and stressed the need for reform.

The government unveiled the reform project in January and parliament started debating it the following month.

Workers and trade unions have expressed growing outrage by holding demonstrations and walkouts against the reform, which would also require at least 43 years of work to be eligible for a full pension.

Political and social tension rose on March 16 when Macron and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne decided to use special constitutional powers to force the plan through without parliamentary approval.

The decision was driven by fear that lawmakers would be able to block the reforms as the government does not hold an absolute majority in parliament.

When the protests sometimes turned violent, police were accused of making arbitrary arrests and using force disproportionately.

The French Constitutional Council will finish examining the bill on April 14.

Trade unions are gearing up for a 12th round of protests on Thursday.

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