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Diplomatic Friendship

French President Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron hit the headlines by making controversial comments about Taiwan on April 9, 2023. On April 12, the President clarified that he stood by his comments, saying that being an ally of the US would not mean blindly following and supporting Washington DC.

In an interview on April 9, the French President stressed that Europe should not get involved in the diplomatic war between Washington DC and Beijing over Taiwan. He also said that it would be a mistake to accept the US’ stance on Taiwan. As his April 9 comments triggered a controversy, President Macron made it clear that friendship should not influence diplomacy, stressing that Europe should not lose its ability to free thinking.

President Macron recently visited the Netherlands. After holding talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Amsterdam, he attended a press conference during which the visiting President explained his statements on Taiwan, as well as on Europe-US relationships. According to President Macron, his comments would not deteriorate Taiwan’s relationship with Europe. At the same time, he said that Paris was in favour of Taiwan’s current independent status. According to the President, France wants peaceful settlements of outstanding issues between China and Taiwan. It may be noted that President Macron visited Beijing in the first week of April.

Although Beijing did not react to controversial comments of the French President on the diplomatic war between China and the US, former US President Donald Trump accused President Macron of pandering to the Asian Giant, saying: “You got this crazy world is blowing up and the US has absolutely no say. And Macron, who’s a friend of mine, is over with China kissing his (Chinese President Xi Jinping) ass.” In reply, President Macron stated that Trump, too, was backing the diplomatic battle between Beijing and Washington DC over Taiwan. Interestingly, the Dutch PM supported President Macron’s stand on Taiwan, but admitted that the US was an important ally of Europe, especially in security-related issues.

Incidentally, it was the first visit to the Netherlands by a French President in the last 23 years. President Macron’s visit was aimed at strengthening ties between the two member-states of the European Union (EU). Meanwhile, about 40 people demonstrated in front of Amsterdam University over France’s pension policy during his visit to the Netherlands. It may be noted that protests rocked France after the Macron Administration decided to raise the pension age from 62 to 64.

Winning A Battle
The Constitutional Council, the highest constitutional authority of France, recently approved President Macron’s Bill, proposing a raise in the age of retirement. On April 14, the Council announced that the Government of France could raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64.

Currently, France has the lowest retirement age among powerful economies in Europe. Since the COVID-19 Pandemic, the world has been going through a recession, and France is no exception to this. After reviewing how government spending could be reduced, President Macron said that a large portion of this spending was going to retirement benefits. He presented the Bill to the National Assembly on January 30. The Bill proposed to raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64, stating that a French national must have worked for at least 43 years to enjoy retirement benefits.

France has been in turmoil for the past few months, with people opposing the President’s proposal. The Constitutional Council decided to look into President Macron’s proposal in order to restore peace in France. The April 14 verdict of the Council ultimately backed the President’s decision.

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