Emmanuel Macron was almost immediately challenged by angry protesters during his visit to the important International Agricultural Show in Paris this morning. Farmers confronted the embattled French leader face to face over his plan to push through controversial pension reforms. In response, he scolded the demonstrators for being “extraordinarily aggressive” during his tenure as president and told them to stop protesting.
The French President’s hefty security kept the majority of protesters at a distance following claims that anti-Macron activists planned to “disrupt” the visit.
In one tense encounter with a protester, Mr Macron said: “I receive you without problem, I am for dialogue. We take an hour and we discuss.”
The woman responded: “It’s been 67 Saturdays that I have been mobilised. I have seen friends fall, I live the war every Saturday.”
The French leader retorted: “It is because there are people who have become extraordinarily aggressive.
“There is a solution to this: stop going out and demonstrating like that.”
JUST IN: Macron promises French fishermen he will ‘fight’ in Brexit talks
At one stage, Eric Drouet, who is one of the leaders of the yellow vest movement against Mr Macron, was kicked out of the fair.
He was expelled by security after he tried to approach the French President – a move which sparked loud booing from other protesters and a “big stampede” inside the hall.
Mr Drouet had earlier posted on Facebook that he was going to “hold Macron to account” if the French President attended the fair.
Speaking to protesters, Mr Macron claimed he had stood firm on defending French farmers at the EU budget summit which ended in failure on Friday.
He added “We are behind our farmers. They feed us everyday. We must be proud of French agriculture.
“I know I can count on our farm world to successfully transform, keeping a strong agriculture while managing to reduce pesticide us.”
Mr Macron has had a difficult relationship with farmers in France, a powerful lobby as the EU’s biggest agricultural producer.
At the same agricultural fair in 2017, the French President was hit with an egg by an angry farmer.
The leader of the French National Federation of Farmers Union Christiane Lambert said today that there was “hesitation among farmers about what he wants from the common agricultural policy”.
She said: “We are not always very reassured by him. It is not always readable.”