Emmanuel Macron urged Europe to develop more strategic autonomy as a way to avoid the risk of turning EU countries into “vassals” in the event of a global crisis such as a US-China confrontation.
“Strategic autonomy must be the battle of Europe,” the French president told the business daily Les Echos during last week’s visit to China. “We don’t want to depend on others for critical topics,” Macron said in the interview, published on Sunday, citing issues such as energy, defense, social media and artificial intelligence. Similar comments were published by Politico.
Macron warned against what he called the “extraterritoriality” of the US dollar, which can force European companies to forgo business with third countries or risk sanctions violations.
“If the tensions between the two superpowers heat up…we won’t have the time nor the resources to finance our strategic autonomy and we will become vassals,” Macron told Politico.
During Macron’s visit to China, traveling with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, he sought to delineate a difference in relations compared with the US’s tougher approach to Beijing. Europe is looking to strike a balance by engaging with China on trade and investment while demanding respect for human rights and territorial sovereignty for Ukraine, among others.
The interviews were conducted before China held military drills around Taiwan on Saturday in retaliation for the visit to the US last week by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen. China has pledged to bring Taiwan under its control someday, by force if necessary. Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party asserts Taiwan is an independent nation.
“The question Europeans need to answer is, is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No,” Macron told Politico. “The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the US agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told Bloomberg News in an interview Monday that he’s aware of Macron’s comments but he wanted to learn more about his engagement with Chinese President Xi Jinping before commenting on the matter.
“The French government has been very vocal in supporting peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Wu said, adding that France has also been conducting freedom of navigation operations in nearby waters.
“All these kinds of actions actually are being supported by Taiwan or appreciated by Taiwan,” he said. “And we hope that this kind of support for Taiwan will continue.”
Wu added that France’s Senate and National Assembly has also shown support, and some lawmakers are coming to Taiwan “very soon.” Taiwan’s government will “check with them to see what kind of additional support we would need from France,” Wu said.
Politico added an editorial comment at the bottom of its story, saying that the French government had insisted on checking Macron’s quotes, and in the process deleted some of his more frank comments on Taiwan.
“The quotes in this article were all actually said by the president, but some parts of the interview in which the president spoke even more frankly about Taiwan and Europe’s strategic autonomy were cut out by the Elysée,” Politico said. With assistance from Jenny Leonard/Bloomberg