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Macron says being an ally 'doesn't mean being a vassal'

April 12, 2023

The French president said he stood by his comments on Taiwan that sparked international criticism in some corners. He has also faced continued protests over his pension reform during his state visit to the Netherlands.

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, propose a toast as they sit down for a working dinner in front of Rembrandt's Nightwatch at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
Macron's state visit to the Netherlands has been in part overshadowed by his controversial remarks on Taiwan and protests back homeImage: Peter Dejong/AP Photo/picture alliance

French President Emmanuel Macron backed up his earlier controversial comments on Taiwan and Europe's relationship with the US on the second day of his state visit to the Netherlands on Wednesday.

Comments by Macron last week about the need for Europe to go its own way regarding tensions between the US and China had been met with criticism from many corners.

During a press conference in Amsterdam alongside Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Macron said, "Being an ally does not mean being a vassal... doesn't mean that we don't have the right to think for ourselves."

"France is for the status quo in Taiwan" and a "peaceful resolution to the situation," he added.

Trump slams 'friend' Macron

"The worst thing we Europeans could do would be to be followers on this topic and to adapt to the American rhythm and a Chinese overreaction," Macron told Les Echos and Politico on Friday following a visit to China.

Former US president and top contender for the Republican nomination for the presidency in 2024, Donald Trump, was the most recent to issue remarks on Macron's comments, in his own particular way.

"Macron, who's a friend of mine, is over with China, kissing his ass," Trump said in reference to Macron and China's President Xi Jinping.

The French president called Trump's comment an example of the escalation that some parties are looking for.

"France does not support provocations, does not engage in fantasy politics and considers the status quo, respect and clarity are the best allies of European strategic autonomy," Macron said.

Anti-pension reform protesters arrested

But the international fallout from his remarks was not the only thing plaguing Macron's Netherlands trip. Protesters also disturbed his state visit for the second day in a row on Wednesday.

A man and a woman were arrested after running at the French president as he got out of a limousine with the Dutch King Willem-Alexander outside of Amsterdam University.

A protester being arrested by Dutch police after running at French President Emmanuel Macron
The man sang a protest song as he was being arrested after running at French President Emmanuel MacronImage: Peter Dejong/AP/dpa/picture alliance

The dramatic scene comes a day after protesters interrupted a speech by Macron in The Hague.  A pension reform law being controversially passed by decree has triggered intense protests and strikes across France for weeks.

One of the protesters who ran toward the president was heard chanting "for the honor of the workers and a better world — even if Macron doesn't like it, we are here" as he was pinned to the ground.

Another group of around 40 protesters was still protesting when Macron left the university's science faculty after a roundtable with the Dutch king and local business leaders.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Dutch King Willem-Alexander, right, visit the quantum gasses and quantum information lab of the Science faculty of the University of Amsterdam
Macron toured the science department of Amsterdam University with the Dutch kingImage: Mischa Schoemaker/Pool Photo/AP/picture alliance

"We must sometimes accept controversy," Macron said in reference to the angry demonstrations in France and the Netherlands. "We must try to build a path for the future."

This is not the first time that the current protests have dampened Macron's diplomatic ambitions. Paris and London agreed to postpone what would have been King Charles III's first trip abroad as monarch due to a planned strike.

ab/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)