Macron’s Warning


French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent remarks to journalists on his way home from China visit about the three-way relationship between China, Europe and the U.S. did more to rile his EU partners. This incident is a show of condition within the EU and future possibilities.

An AFP report — Macron’s China remarks exasperate EU allies, April 13, 2023 — said:

French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent trip to Beijing was billed as a chance to showcase European unity and persuade Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help rein in Russian aggression.

But remarks that Macron made to journalists on his way home about the three-way relationship between China, Europe and the United States did more to rile his EU partners.

In an interview with French daily Les Echos and news platform Politico, Macron warned against Europe being dragged into a conflict between Washington and Beijing.

If the stand-off over Taiwan accelerates, he said, Europe might not have the time nor the resources to build the “strategic autonomy” to act without US leadership that France seeks.

Then, EU members would “become vassals, whereas we can be the third pole if we have a few years to build it.”

The Chinese government was delighted by its guest’s remarks. Brussels diplomats less so.

“The French president speaks always for the French Republic,” a senior EU official told reporters. “If the German Chancellor says something does also everybody say this is the policy of the European Union?”

Since the interview was published last weekend, French diplomats have scrambled to insist that Europe becoming a “third pole” does not mean seeking equidistance between an American democratic ally and an autocratic Chinese rival.

But Macron’s warning against subordination to U.S. interests, along with the perception — rejected by Paris — that he was suggesting that Europe should not stand up to China over Taiwan, annoyed many EU partners.

The report said:

EU members from the east of the bloc have long been wary of Europe escaping Washington’s embrace, seen as their key security guarantee against Russian aggression and as Ukraine’s most important defense.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, on a visit to Washington, slammed fellow EU leaders like Macron, and before him Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, for seeking trade contracts in Beijing.

“Short-sightedly they look to China to be able sell more EU products there at huge geopolitical costs,” he said.

“Hence, I do not understand the concept of European strategic autonomy if it means the fact of shooting ourselves in our own knee.”

Lithuania’s foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis was scathing about the argument that Europe can persuade Xi to intercede with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to de-escalate Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

“I propose we recognize the benefits and necessity of trans-Atlantic unity. I do not suggest begging for dictators to help secure peace in Europe,” he tweeted.

The negative reaction in EU countries on Russia’s borders was perhaps to be expected, and Macron has never been shy of making provocative statements to stir debate on the future of European strategy.

But traditional French partners in western Europe were also skeptical of his diplomatic freelancing.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said: “We have never been in danger of becoming or being a vassal of the United States.”

“I found this comment unfortunate but I think the Elysee has corrected it somewhat,” he told ZDF television.

Shortly after his return to Europe from China, Macron set off on a state visit to the Netherlands while debate still raged over his comments.

His host, Prime Minister Mark Rutte, was careful not to criticize his guest, but said “the US is indispensable and without that support it is inconceivable that Ukraine could have withstood the waves of violence of the past year.”

In Brussels there is regret that Macron’s comments have overshadowed the efforts of European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to coordinate an EU stance on China.

Before setting off to accompany Macron on his Beijing visit, von der Leyen made a well-received speech on the need for the EU to “de-risk” itself from dependence on China while not “de-coupling” from its huge market.

But she was seen to have received a cold shoulder in China while Macron hogged the headlines.

The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, took to the airwaves to defend — and to try to explain — Macron’s stance and Europe’s strategic ambitions.

“On strategic autonomy, there’s much more support than there was a few years ago,” he told French television.

The AFP report said:

The bond between Washington and Brussels were threatened during former president Donald Trump’s term, as the U.S. leader cosied up to Putin and threatened to quit NATO.

This focused European minds on the need to shore up their own defenses, for a while, but when Russia invaded Ukraine Washington’s military aid to Kyiv far surpassed the EU contribution.

Even supporters of a stronger united European geopolitical role, like centre-right French MEP Arnaud Danjean, fault Macron for pushing on without taking into account allies’ concerns.

While the idea that Europe should be better able to stand on its own two feet is accepted, any suggestion that the allies should distance themselves from the US before building up their own forces is unrealistic.

“We struggle to convince our partners essentially because we put the cart before the horse,” he tweeted.

“Without first focusing on developing the means of autonomy, making grand declarations by presenting it as a given can only irritate.”

Macron Holds His Position

An AP report — Emmanuel Macron says his position on Taiwan is unchanged, April 12, 2023 — said:

French President Macron commented on his published remarks on China and Taiwan that raised questions after he visited Beijing last week, insisting Wednesday that his views have not changed.

“The position of France and the Europeans on Taiwan is the same. We are for the status quo, and this policy is constant,” Macron told reporters in Amsterdam near the end of a two-day state visit to the Netherlands. “It has not changed. It’s the policy of one China and the peaceful settlement of the question.”

He was referring to remarks published Sunday from an interview with French newspaper Les Echos and Politico Europe. The remarks elicited doubts about whether Macron’s views were in line with the European Union’s position on Taiwan’s status. Beijing claims that the island is a Chinese territory that must be brought under its control, by force if necessary.

“The question we need to answer, as Europeans, is the following: is it in our interest to accelerate (a crisis) on Taiwan? No,” Macron was quoted as saying in the interview. “The worst thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”

Macron said he spoke to U.S. President Joe Biden before he traveled to China. A string of foreign politicians have visited Taiwan in recent months, including then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and numerous politicians from the EU.

The French leader addressed other topics during his trip to the Netherlands. Earlier Wednesday, Macron said that protests in France and the Netherlands were a social price that has to be paid as governments in the two countries push ahead with reforms.

“We must sometimes accept controversy,” Macron said. “We must try to build a path for the future.”

He was speaking to members of the French community in Amsterdam, on the second day of a state visit that has been dogged by small protests against his deeply unpopular pension reform, which will raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The reforms have sparked massive and sometimes violent protests in France. In the Netherlands, farmers and their supporters protested for months about plans to rein in emissions of nitrogen oxide. At times last year, Dutch farmers used tractors to blockade supermarket warehouses, torched bales of hay alongside roads and dumped garbage including manure and asbestos on highways.

A populist, pro-farmer political party made major gains in recent provincial elections in the Netherlands.

“Sometimes in France we think that we are the only country where there are protests,” Macron said in his speech in Amsterdam. “You who live here know very well that there is also a strong, profound protest movement here.”

Earlier in the day, police tackled and detained a protester who ran, shouting, toward Macron as he arrived at a University of Amsterdam science campus.

It was the second straight day that protesters targeted Macron. On Tuesday, demonstrators shouted and held up banners at the start of a speech in The Hague.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that free speech is an important right but he regretted the protests.

“We are hosts, so you don’t want that,” he said, standing alongside Macron at the Amsterdam Mayor’s official residence.

Earlier, French and Dutch ministers signed an agreement to strengthen cooperation in moves to develop digital technology and make the countries’ industrial sectors more sustainable.

The Pact for Innovation and Sustainable Growth aims to promote partnerships in areas including “semiconductors, quantum, critical raw materials, sustainable mobility and energy infrastructure,” the Dutch government said in a statement.

Macron was wrapping up his two-day state visit with talks between the two countries’ government ministers and a visit to a sell-out exhibition of paintings by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum.

Macron’s Stronger Tone

Another report said:

Paris is an ally and not a “vassal” of Washington, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday, defending his comments about strategic autonomy” of the EU regarding the rising tensions between the U.S. and China.

“Being an ally does not mean being a vassal, does not mean that we do not have the right to think for ourselves,” Macron said in Amsterdam at a joint press conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Asked for the French position on Taiwan, Macron said Paris supports the status quo, meaning the “One Chine policy and the search for a peaceful resolution to the situation.”

Returning from his trip to China on Sunday, Macron argued that the EU can’t just be “America’s followers,” and that it is not in the bloc’s interest to stoke tensions over Taiwan. “The worst thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction,” he told reporters.

The remarks earned a swift rebuke from U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican on the foreign affairs committee, who suggested Washington might leave the EU to handle the Ukraine conflict by itself.

Taiwanese Parliament Speaker You Si-kun on Tuesday argued that France had forsaken its motto of ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’, and that advanced democracies should not “ignore the lives and deaths of people in other countries,” adding that Macron’s comments left him “puzzled.”

Meanwhile, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that Macron was “perfectly right to demand European independence and sovereignty,” while the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, noted that “quite a few” leaders of EU countries think like Macron, even though they “would not say things the same way.”

When asked about the French president’s comments on Monday, the U.S. State Department said France is a long-standing ally and that occasional disagreements do not detract from the “deep partnership” with Paris. As for the EU position, a State Department spokesman cited a recent speech by the bloc’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, which described China as “a national and economic security threat,” and said there is “immense convergence” between Washington and Brussels on the matter.

Truss Talks About Biden

A report by The Telegraph — Biden was part of resistance that ousted me from power, says Truss, April 13, 2023 — said:

Former UK PM Liz Truss said Joe Biden, the U.S. president, was part of the “coordinated resistance” she blamed for ending her brief premiership in a U.S. speech intended to revive her economic and political agenda.

The former prime minister also hit out at Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, for showing “weakness” by meeting Xi Jinping, the Chinese premier.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, Ms Truss warned that a “new kind of economic model” was taking hold on both sides of the Atlantic, focused on “redistributionism”, “stagnation” and “the imbuing of woke culture” into businesses.

She cited Mr Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act – the $454 billion (£363.4bn) flagship bill aimed at tackling climate change, tax and healthcare – as an example, saying the legislation would “encourage US industry to spend their time rent-seeking”.

She added: “It’s also going to cut competitors out of the market, including companies in the United Kingdom.”

Ms Truss hit back at Mr Biden’s criticism of her tax-cutting policies while in Number 10, saying: “It is not a matter for the U.S. president, it is a matter for the UK Government how we best have tax rates that deliver for everybody across our country.”

She criticized the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s plans for a minimum corporation tax rate, first proposed by Mr Biden, saying: “We need a UK-U.S. trade deal, not a UK-U.S. tax deal.”

The former UK PM conceded that her ousting from Downing Street after just 49 days following the disastrous mini-Budget had been a “major setback”, but stressed that the point of her speech on Wednesday was to “take on those who resist change”.

Reflecting on her brief tenure, she said she had “simply underestimated the scale and depth of resistance” to her economic agenda.

She said: “We did not just face coordinated resistance from inside the Conservative Party, or even inside the British corporate establishment. We faced it from the IMF, and even from President Biden.”

Ms Truss was delivering the Right-wing think tank’s annual Margaret Thatcher freedom lecture in which she made the case for “Anglo-American capitalism”, espousing the values of privatization and limited government championed by Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

“Last autumn, I had a major setback. But I care too much to give up on this agenda,” she said. “And over the coming months I will be setting out ideas about how we together can take this battle forward.”

Her fiercest criticism was reserved for Mr Macron and Ms von der Leyen, who travelled to Beijing last week to urge Mr Xi to “reason” with Russia and help end the war in Ukraine.

She said: “I believe that was a sign of weakness. It’s also why it’s wrong for President Macron to suggest that Taiwan is simply something not of direct interest to Europe. I do not agree with that at all. What we have seen is accommodation and appeasement by the West of these authoritarian regimes.”

She warned of the immediate danger China posed to the world order, saying that “the invasion of Taiwan could come sooner than we expect”.

German Foreign Minister On Way To China

A Reuters report — Germany foreign minister embarks on post-Macron ‘damage control’ in China trip, April 13, 2023 – said:

Germany’s foreign minister begins a visit to China on Thursday aiming to reassert a common European Union policy toward Beijing days after remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron suggested disarray in the continent’s approach to the rising superpower.

Macron provoked a backlash in the U.S. and Europe when he called on the European Union to reduce dependence on the U.S. and cautioned against being drawn into a crisis over Taiwan driven by an “American rhythm and a Chinese overreaction.”

Many European politicians, diplomats and analysts saw Macron’s comments in an interview with Politico and French daily Les Echos as a gift to what they called Beijing’s goal of dismantling transatlantic unity.

As a result, the stakes of the inaugural trip by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have risen, with many EU members hoping Berlin will use this opportunity to set out a clear and united EU line on China, analysts said.

Macron was widely seen as taking a weak line on Taiwan by warning Europe should not get “caught up in crises that are not ours” — although his office insisted this was not his intended meaning and his position on Taiwan and China had not changed.

“Now it is about damage control to a large degree … But the cloud of Macron’s visit is very big and still it is very unclear how this balance will play out in the end,” Alicja Bachulska, a China-EU relations researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Warsaw, told Reuters.

Even without Macron’s remarks the trip would have been delicate for Baerbock, who has been more hawkish on China than Chancellor Olaf Scholz and is drafting a China policy aimed at reducing Germany’s economic dependence on Beijing.

“She was sort of perceived as being a troublemaker. I would be surprised if this does not play a role at all in her visit,” Tim Ruehlig, China expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations, told Reuters.

Baerbock must now make Germany’s position on Taiwan clear during her visit, German foreign policy parliamentarian Nils Schmid told Reuters, adding Macron’s remarks had destroyed a hoped-for impetus for a common European China policy.

The foreign minister is due to meet her counterpart Qin Gang and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi on the two-day trip.

Speaking ahead of her visit, Baerbock said the top of her agenda would be reminding China of its responsibility to influence Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine and underlining a common European conviction that a unilateral change in the status quo in the Taiwan Strait would be unacceptable.

Europe’s view of China as partner, competitor and systemic rival is the compass of its policy, she added.

“It is clear to me that we have no interest in economic decoupling, but we must take a more systematic look at the risks of one-sided dependencies and reduce them,” Baerbock said.

Some EU capitals – particularly those in Central and Eastern Europe, which cherish their ties with the U.S. – will be hoping Baerbock’s stance is closer to the one expressed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who visited Beijing at the same time as Macron.

Many analysts drew a contrast between Macron’s remarks and those from von der Leyen that were widely seen as more critical of Beijing. Just days before the visit she said Europe must “de-risk” diplomatically and economically with a hardening China.

“More von der Leyen than Macron should be her guideline,” conservative foreign policy lawmaker Johann Wadephul, who will join Baerbock on her trip, told Reuters.


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