King Charles’ visit to France postponed after wave of protests
French gendarmes react near burning garbage bins amid clashes with protesters during a demonstration as part of the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government’s pension reform, in Paris, France, March 23, 2023.
Nacho Doce | Reuters
King Charles III’s visit to France has been postponed, as protests continue over the Paris government’s pension system reforms.
This trip was due to be the new British monarch’s first state visit and was scheduled to run from March 26 to March 29.
Unions on Thursday called for a national day of action involving strikes and protests on March 28.
The decision to cancel the visit was taken by the French and British governments after a phone call between French President Emmanuel Macron and King Charles, according to a statement.
Street protests have intensified in recent days, after the government last week announced it would use special constitutional powers to force its unpopular pension bill through the lower house of parliament without a vote.
King Charles was due to visit Paris and Bordeaux, both of which have experienced tense protests. Bordeaux town hall was set on fire, although the flames were quickly extinguished, the BBC reported.
In Paris and other cities, tear gas and water cannons have been fired at protesters, and police officers have been injured.
Protesters throw tear gas canisters back amid clashes during a demonstration as part of the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government’s pension reform, in Paris, France, March 23, 2023.
Yves Herman | Reuters
The pension bill will bring the national retirement age up from 62 to 64 for most workers, or by the same number of years at a lower age for public sector manual workers. It will also lift the number of years that someone must pay into the system to receive a full pension from 42 to 43 from 2027.
The government has narrowly survived two no-confidence motions filed by coalitions of opposition lawmakers.
In a televised interview with channels TF1 and France 2 on Wednesday, Macron insisted that the reforms were necessary to balance the books and shore up the pension system for the future.
A French police officer in riot gear, injured during clashes with protesters, is given help at a demonstration during the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government’s pension reform, in Paris, France, March 23, 2023.
Gonzalo Fuentes | Reuters
Unions have slammed the changes and the way in which they have been passed as an undemocratic attack on working people.
Macron said he wanted to engage with unions, but accused them of failing to negotiate over the reforms. He also said that peaceful demonstration is legitimate, but added that some protests led to unacceptable disruption and violence.
The French president’s popularity ratings have plunged amid the controversy, and an Elabe poll on Thursday found that 71% of respondents who watched his interview did not find it convincing, while 61% said it would lead to more anger.