(Paris) French President Emmanuel Macron was under fire from both sides of the Atlantic on Tuesday after his remarks calling on the European Union not to be “follower” of the United States or China on the question of Taiwan .
Returning from a trip to China, the French leader told the American site Politico and the French business daily Les Échos that Europe should not align itself with the United States or China in the event of a dispute over from Taiwan.
“The worst thing would be to think that we Europeans should be followers” on the Taiwan question “and adapt to the American rhythm and a Chinese overreaction”, declared Emmanuel Macron.
The Élysée highlights in particular the need for a “sovereign Europe” and “strategic autonomy”. The president’s remarks also reflect the desire not to add fuel to the fire in the face of a possible escalation between China and the United States.
Many analysts and politicians in Europe and the United States question the appropriateness of these remarks at a time when Washington is ensuring Europe’s security by supporting Ukraine politically, militarily and financially and even when a conflict between the two leading world powers over Taiwan would have repercussions for Europeans.
“The policy of
Metin Hakverdi, a German MP from Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party, believes in the newspaper Tagesspiegel that it is a “ serious error ” that the West allows itself to be divided in its position vis-à-vis Beijing. “ This weakens the community of Western values ”.
In the United States, the White House had sought Monday to play down the controversy, considering that the United States had a “ tremendous bilateral relationship ” with France.
But Republican Senator Marco Rubio posted a video suggesting that Washington should rethink its own priorities: “If Macron speaks for all of Europe, and their position is that now they are not going to choose sides between the United States and China over Taiwan, maybe we shouldn’t take sides either… and (let them) manage Ukraine.”
For experts, the French president’s remarks are “ inappropriate ” while Emmanuel Macron has already taken irritating positions for some of his allies, such as his diagnosis of “ brain death ” from NATO in 2019 and more recently his desire not to “humiliate” Russia when the Russian war in Ukraine ends.
“ It is inappropriate and contradictory, because if there is a crisis in the Taiwan Strait, the interests of France and the European Union will be immediately affected ”, told AFP Marc Julienne, researcher at the Institute. French for International Relations (Ifri). “ The issue of the Taiwan Strait is precisely our business ”.
For Antoine Bondaz, China specialist at the Foundation for Strategic Research, a Paris-based think tank, “ in terms of communication, it’s a fiasco”, because Emmanuel Macron suggests that Washington is responsible for the tensions around Taiwan rather than China.
Such remarks could leave Beijing thinking that France, or even Europe, would not intervene if China invaded and took control of Taiwan, the expert believes. “ This weakens deterrence ”.
Faced with the outcry, the Élysée defended the president’s position: Europe “must be able to make its unique voice heard”. The French Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, estimated on Europe 1 radio that Emmanuel Macron was “perfectly right to demand independence and European sovereignty as he has been doing since 2017”.
Former adviser to Emmanuel Macron, Stéphane Séjourné called on France Inter radio not to “caricature the president’s remarks”, stressing that the latter wanted Europe and France to be able to play “a role of de-escalation”. “And in this context, obviously, our allies are the Americans”, he assured.
But for Marc Julienne, “ the risk is that Macron has damaged or scratched this European unity under construction ”.
For James Laurenceson, director of the Institute of Australia-China Relations at UTS, quoted by the Australian public channel SBS, the French president chose his moment badly, but only “stated a reality”: the likelihood of a conflict between Beijing and Washington. “This is frankly a point of view shared by the Australian government”.