‘France burns’: World watches as anger at Macron’s reforms grows
Images of the violence in France made its way onto front pages in several countries – Copyright AFP Alain JOCARD
The world has reacted to violent demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms with warnings, questions about the future of France’s political system — and gloating from foes.
– United Kingdom –
Influential UK business daily the Financial Times said Macron’s actions increase the risk that the French “will follow Americans, Britons and Italians and vote populist: President Marine Le Pen in 2027.
“France can’t go on like this. It’s time to end the Fifth Republic, with its all-powerful presidency… and inaugurate a less autocratic Sixth Republic,” it added.
After the announcement that King Charles III’s state visit to France had been postponed, the British media dusted off its references to the French Revolution of 1789.
The Daily Telegraph website prominently featured a picture of graffiti on a Parisian wall reading “Charles III, do you know the guillotine?”
– Spain –
The images of the violence made the front pages of the Spanish newspapers, with the daily El Pais running the headline “Rage takes over the streets of France”.
The left-wing government in Madrid, which has passed its own pension reform, said France had seemingly overstretched in imposing its plans, while the leader of the main opposition party, Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, seemed to offer support for Macron’s reform.
– Italy –
All of the major Italian newspapers carried extensive coverage of the protests in Paris and the provinces.
“France burns”, read the headline of Roman daily Il Messaggero, alongside a photo of the entrance to Bordeaux’s city hall in flames.
“France in the street: day of anger”, wrote the Corriere della Sera, warning that “difficult days are coming”.
La Stampa said that Macron’s television interview had only served to “explode social anger”.
Among the rare political reactions, former prime minister Matteo Renzi tweeted a message of support for Macron, writing: “There is a leader in Europe who does not look at polls but to the choices for the future, for his country and for the new generations.
“I am proud of our friendship, bravo Mr. President!”
On the streets of Rome, the response was mixed.
“The French are much tougher than the Italians. They are much more attentive to their rights. I hope they will succeed in preventing the reform”, 77-year-old retiree Margherita Gaetani told AFP.
But Enrico Amendola, an 86-year-old retiree, insisted that the reforms were “fundamental for the financial balance of the State”.
– Russia –
Capitalising on Macron’s woes, Russian state media broadcast footage of clashes between police and demonstrators, brutal arrests and streets full of smoke from tear gas and burning objects to present the image of a country on the edge.
Other media went further, with rolling news channel Russia 24 spreading false claims that the electricity had been cut off to the police stations in Paris.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also waded in, drawing parallels with France’s support for Ukraine.
“When is Macron going to start delivering weapons to French citizens to support democracy and the sovereignty of the country?” she said Friday in a message on her Telegram account, which was accompanied by a video showing overturned cars on a French street.
– Hungary –
Hungarian public television spoke on Thursday of a “revolutionary atmosphere” in France.
One of the main pro-government sites reported that “according to information on the ground, the situation continues to deteriorate”.
– United States –
While not advising against travel to France, the US embassy urged its nationals to “avoid demonstrations” and leave the area if they find themselves close to violence.
It warned particularly against getting between demonstrators and the police.
– Morocco –
In the midst of a frosty period in relations between Rabat and Paris, newspapers and websites close to the government revelled in Macron’s discomfort, highlighting unflattering reports from French and international media.
Leaders in Iran, where several hundred people have been killed and thousands arrested over protests in recent months, echoed the language often used against them by the West in responding to “the crackdown on protests”.
“We call on the French government to respect human rights and refrain from using force against the people of their country who peacefully pursue their demands,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeted in French.