King Charles cancels France visit amid social unrest

Published March 25, 2023
Protesting workers gather around a fire outside a refinery in Normandy on Friday. So far around 150 policemen have been injured and scores of protesters arrested in demonstrations across France.—AFP
Protesting workers gather around a fire outside a refinery in Normandy on Friday. So far around 150 policemen have been injured and scores of protesters arrested in demonstrations across France.—AFP

PARIS: Britain’s King Charles on Friday cancelled a state visit to France next week after social unrest over President Emmanuel Macron’s new pension law erupted into some of the worst street violence seen in years across the country.

The postponement — at Macron’s request — will be a major embarrassment to the French leader, who had hoped the monarch’s visit would mark a symbolic step in the two countries’ efforts to turn a page after years of poor relations over Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Charles had been due to travel to France on Sunday for three days before moving on to Germany.

That itinerary had been seen as a win for Macron, who has sought to position himself as Europe’s de facto leader. Charles’ trip would have included a lavish banquet at the Palace of Versailles.

“You can see the situation linked to the protests,” Macron told a news conference during a visit to Brussels. He added that “it would not have been serious” to host the state visit after unions announced a nationwide day of strikes and protests for Tuesday. “Common sense and friendship pushed us to propose to postpone (the visit).”

A British government spokesperson said the decision was “taken with the consent of all parties” after Macron asked the British government to postpone the visit.

The last-minute scrapping of the visit will pile further pressure on Macron to find a way out of the crisis.

Black-clad anarchists fought street battles with police for several hours in the French capital on Thursday, ransacking a McDonald’s restaurant, smashing up bus shelters and setting alight mounds of garbage that have piled up during strikes.

In Bordeaux, at the heart of one of France’s best-known wine growing areas and where Charles had also been expected to visit, protesters set alight the entrance to the city hall.

Published in Dawn, March 25th, 2023

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