Macron Faces Volatile Crowds in Netherlands

French President Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron faced heckling from volatile crowds during a visit to the Netherlands, as he confronted pressure over raising the French retirement age and his warning that Europe must not become “vassals” in the US-China conflict over Taiwan.

The French president was scheduled to deliver a speech on European strategic autonomy at the University of Amsterdam when two protesters against his pension changes were arrested as they raced towards him.

The speech, which was repeatedly interrupted by heckling, was seen as an opportunity to clarify his remarks from a Sunday interview in which he called for Europe to act more independently from the United States regarding Taiwan. French officials insisted that he would not apologize for his remarks and noted that a French naval ship had sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, demonstrating France’s dedication to Taiwan’s independence.

European political circles are severely divided over Macron’s remarks, praised by Chinese media, that Europe should strive to become a third pole alongside Washington and Beijing and not get involved in US conflicts.

China was conducting military exercises off the coast of Taiwan in response to a meeting between Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, and the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, in Los Angeles.

Macron had cautioned in an interview against being drawn into a Taiwan crisis led by “American rhythm and Chinese overreaction.” In a subsequent press conference in the Netherlands, he stated that France’s stance on Taiwan had not changed and that he favored the current “status quo” regarding the island.