Britain's King Charles III's visit to France postponed amid protest over pension reforms

World Friday 24/March/2023 18:42 PM
Britain's King Charles III's visit to France postponed amid protest over pension reforms

Paris: United Kingdom King Charles III's state visit to Paris has been postponed amid the mass protest against the unpopular pension reforms, the French president's office has said.

"Given yesterday's announcement of a new national day of action against pension reform on Tuesday, March 28 in France, the visit of King Charles III, initially scheduled for March 26 to 29 in our country, will be postponed," the statement read. The king had been scheduled to arrive in France on Sunday on his first state visit as monarch, before heading to Germany on Wednesday.

"This decision was taken by the French and British governments, after a telephone exchange between the President of the Republic and the King this morning, in order to be able to welcome His Majesty King Charles III under conditions which correspond to our relationship of friendship. This State visit will be rescheduled as soon as possible," the statement added.

Hundreds of protesters were angry at French President Emmanuel Macron after he pushed the unpopular pension reform scheme which proposed to raise the retirement age for most workers to 64 from 62 without a vote of lawmakers in the National Assembly.

More than 149 police and gendarmes were injured and 172 people arrested, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Thursday evening, France24 reported.

Calls by union leaders for non-violent protests to keep public opinion onside was ignored by a number of demonstrators throughout France who clashed with police and lit fires in major cities.
In the parliament, the upper house approved the Bill. But in the National Assembly, the lower and more powerful house, where Macron's party and its allies hold only a slim majority, the party did not have enough votes to pass the Bill, according to The New York Times.

The decision to use Article 49.3 of the French Constitution, which enables a government to push a bill through the National Assembly without a vote, gives opposition lawmakers 24 hours to file a no-confidence motion against the government, although it is rare for such motions to succeed.

Macron said France's pension system is in "an increasingly precarious state" because retirees are living longer and their numbers are growing faster than those of today's workers, whose payroll taxes finance the system. But his plan has angered a society that reveres retirement and a generous balance between work and leisure. In polls, roughly two-thirds of French people say they disapprove of the plan.

After Macron proposed the pension reform scheme, many angry protesters lit small fires and clashed with police clad in riot gear at the Place de la Concorde in central Paris.

Several thousand people had spontaneously gathered there earlier in the day, after the government's decision was announced, to demonstrate across the Seine River from the National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, as per the report in The New York Times.

While the gathering was mostly peaceful throughout the afternoon, the situation took a more violent turn as night fell over the French capital and the police moved in to clear out the Place de la Concorde, a major square in Paris with a famed obelisk in the middle, not far from luxury hotels, the Tuileries gardens and the US Embassy.