France ready to welcome King Charles despite violent pension protests, says minister

King Charles is to visit France for his first state visit  (PA Wire)
King Charles is to visit France for his first state visit (PA Wire)

France is ready to welcome Britain's King Charles during his State Visit despite violent protests against pension reforms, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Friday.

"We are extremely focused. We are ready to welcome him in excellent conditions," Mr Darmanin told CNews TV.

He added that 4,000 security officers were taking part in the huge operation to make sure the King’s visit next week goes smoothy.

A Buckingham Palace source said earlier this week the protests could impact the logistics of the visit, Charles' first since becoming monarch.

Anti-government “thugs” across France were accused of trying to kill police officers as arsonists attacked civic buildings, on Thursday night, including one in a city King Charles is set to visit next week.

The chaos is part of a week of disturbances that followed President Emmanuel Macron raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote.

Outbreaks of violence were reported from Paris to Marseilles overnight from Thursday to Friday, as a fire was lit at the historic City Hall in Bordeaux – where the King and Camilla, the Queen, will be on Tuesday.

Commenting on 149 police officers being seriously injured and 172 people being arrested across the country, Mr Darmanin said extremism was intensifying.

“There are thugs, often from the far-Left, who want to bring down the state and kill police officers,” said Mr Darmanin, during a visit to Paris police headquarters.

There at least 140 acts of arson in Paris alone, with one of the most serious attacks being on a residential block close to the Paris Opera.

More than a million people took to the streets on Thursday to protests against the government, as riot police used teargas, baton charges and water canon to bring crowds to order.

Among the injured protesters was a woman who lost her thumb during a riot in the Normandy city of Rouen.

Trade Unions have warned that the violence will get worse unless Mr Macron reverses his pension reforms.

“The president must change his incomprehensible stubbornness or the situation will get worse,2 said Marylise Leon, of the CFDT union.

The unions have called for further protests next Tuesday, which will coincide with the King’s visit to the country.

He is due to attend a number of events in Bordeaux and Paris, including making a speech at the Senate, the upper house of the French parliament.

Protesters have already threatened to target the Royal couple, saying he is not welcome in the republic during a period of social chaos..

Beyond riots, anti-Macron protests in France have included some 10,000 tonnes of rubbish building up on the streets of Paris after binmen withdrew their labour.

A Buckingham Palace source said the situation in France “was being monitored,” but there were no immediate plans to cancel the State Visit.