French President Emmanuel Macron commented on his published remarks on China and Taiwan that raised questions after he visited Beijing last week, insisting Wednesday that his views have not changed. “The position of France and the Europeans on Taiwan is the same. We are for the status quo, and this policy is constant,” Macron told reporters in Amsterdam near the end of a two-day state visit to the Netherlands. “It hasn’t changed. It’s the policy of one China and the peaceful settlement of the question.”
He was referring to remarks published Sunday from an interview with French newspaper Les Echos and Politico Europe. The remarks elicited doubts about whether Macron’s views were in line with the European Union’s position on Taiwan’s status. Beijing claims that the island is a Chinese territory that must be brought under its control, by force if necessary.
“The question we need to answer, as Europeans, is the following: is it in our interest to accelerate (a crisis) on Taiwan? No,” Macron was quoted as saying in the interview. “The worst thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”
Macron said he spoke to U.S. President Joe Biden before he traveled to China. A string of foreign politicians have visited Taiwan in recent months, including then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and numerous politicians from the EU.
The French leader addressed other topics during his trip to the Netherlands. Earlier Wednesday, Macron said that protests in France and the Netherlands were a social price that has to be paid as governments in the two countries push ahead with reforms.
“We must sometimes accept controversy,” Macron said. “We must try to build a path for the future.”
He was speaking to members of the French community in Amsterdam, on the second day of a state visit that has been dogged by small protests against his deeply unpopular pension reform, which will raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
The reforms have sparked massive and sometimes violent protests in France. In the Netherlands, farmers and their supporters protested for months about plans to rein in emissions of nitrogen oxide. At times last year, Dutch farmers used tractors to blockade supermarket warehouses, torched bales of hay alongside roads and dumped garbage including manure and asbestos on highways.
A populist, pro-farmer political party made major gains in recent provincial elections in the Netherlands.
“Sometimes in France we think that we are the only country where there are protests,” Macron said in his speech in Amsterdam. “You who live here know very well that there is also a strong, profound protest movement here.”
Earlier in the day, police tackled and detained a protester who ran, shouting, toward Macron as he arrived at a University of Amsterdam science campus.
It was the second straight day that protesters targeted Macron. On Tuesday, demonstrators shouted and held up banners at the start of a speech in The Hague.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that free speech is an important right but he regretted the protests.
“We are hosts, so you don’t want that,” he said, standing alongside Macron at the Amsterdam Mayor’s official residence.
Earlier, French and Dutch ministers signed an agreement to strengthen cooperation in moves to develop digital technology and make the countries’ industrial sectors more sustainable.
The Pact for Innovation and Sustainable Growth aims to promote partnerships in areas including “semiconductors, quantum, critical raw materials, sustainable mobility and energy infrastructure,” the Dutch government said in a statement.
Macron was wrapping up his two-day state visit with talks between the two countries’ government ministers and a visit to a sell-out exhibition of paintings by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.
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