Emmanuel Macron’s aim of EU unity when it comes to China policy was dealt a blow by the fallout of his recent visit, as his comments in an interview caused unease among some European allies. This trip had been billed as a chance for Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to demonstrate a united front in the face of China.
However, the French president’s remarks caused a stir among EU member states, particularly those from Central and Eastern Europe, as he called for the EU to become independent from the United States and touted the idea of a “third pole” in world affairs that would stand alongside China and Washington.
These comments contradicted traditional positions on security and transatlantic affairs and didn’t sit well with some foreign ministers. The Czech Republic’s Jan Lipavsky and Poland’s Andrzej Duda’s adviser Marcin Przydacz both said firmly that Europe should not shift from Washington.
France’s foreign ministry moved quickly to contain the rage, confusion and division sparked by Macron’s comments, cancelling a planned debrief by diplomats in Paris and ensuring they had a consistent message when speaking with other European states and the United States.
The White House and U.S. State Department received Macron’s remarks with skepticism but relative distance, not addressing them directly. However, U.S. Republican Senator Marco Rubio openly questioned if Europe should be taking sides on issues such as Taiwan and Ukraine following Macron’s statements.
France is not alone in supporting the idea of European independence, it is also supported by countries such as Germany, Italy, and Spain. However, many of these countries privately ridiculed the way in which Macron handled the China trip and von der Leyen’s lesser role. They warned about succumbing to pressure from Beijing to divide the European Union.
The whole episode highlights the ever-widening chasm between Europe and the United States in their approach to China. It is clear that the Europeans will look to stand on their own two feet rather than rely purely on the American policy of containment.
French diplomacy is based on the relationship between the people, its government, and international partners. It has shaped French policy for centuries and was a main factor in the establishment of the EU. Macron embodies this culture, striving for a more strategic, independent EU that is capable of taking a stand on issues of relevance to it.
Ursula von der Leyen is the President of the European Commission. This positions her as the driving force behind the EU policy, including on foreign and security matters. Von der Leyen and her team are working hard to ensure that the EU plays a constructive role in global affairs. She aims to balance Chinese interests in the region and promote a rules-based international order while also protecting European economic and strategic interests.
Both Macron and von der Leyen are showcasing the strength and resilience of the European Union as they bravely strike out on their own path rather than simply follow along with the United States. This episode has made it clear that the Europeans are ready to stand up for themselves and fight for their independence.