Recent comments from France President Emmanuel Macron sparked a wave of concern over Europe’s place in the rising tensions between the U.S. and China over Taiwan’s sovereignty.
In a speech given in The Netherlands on Tuesday, the French president emphasized a stance he had already teased in an interview late last week, when he said Europe must limit its dependency on the U.S. and prevent itself from getting dragged into a fight between China and the U.S. over Taiwan.
Macron shared the first wave of disruptive comments in an interview given for the press as he returned from a three-day visit to mainland China, where he spent over six hours with Chinese President Xi Jinping, discussing the issue of Taiwan “intensely,” according to French officials quoted by Politico.
“We must strive to be rule-makers rather than rule-takers,” said Macron in his Tuesday speech, emphasizing that Europe should be able to “choose [its] partners and shape [its] own destiny.”
“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,” said Macron last week, saying he expects the European Union to become a “third superpower” in coming years.
“Being an ally does not mean being a vassal doesn’t mean that we don’t have the right to think for ourselves,” Macron said at a press conference in The Netherlands.
Last week, the head of the French state said that Europe and France should reduce their dependence on the U.S. dollar, echoing similar comments from Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Tuesday’s speech in The Netherlands was interrupted by protestors criticizing Macron for a recent measure to raise the retirement age in France from 62 to 64; an issue that has sparked violent protests in Paris and across the country in recent weeks.
Macron’s remarks sparked backlash from U.S. politicians, including Donald Trump, as well as some of his European counterparts. The timing of the remarks — closely following a visit to China and in the midst of Chinese plans to block the airspace north of Taiwan — have condemned the French president for showing himself as too close to China.
Several members of the European Parliament said Macron’s comments are his own and do not reflect a common stance across the 27-nation bloc.
One MEP called Macron’s hopes for European strategic sovereignty “pipe dreams,” according to The Guardian, while a German MP said the comments were a “foreign policy disaster” for Europe.
“With his idea of sovereignty, which he defines in demarcation rather than partnership with the USA, he is increasingly isolating himself in Europe,” said German MP Norbert Röttgen.
In the wake of the comments, the Biden administration downplayed the comments as they remain confident in the bilateral relationship with France.
“We’ll let the Élysée speak for President Macron’s comments — we’re focused on the terrific collaboration and coordination that we have with France as an ally and a friend,” said National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.
Other Washington lawmakers slammed Macron’s meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“The Chinese Communist Party is the most significant challenge to Western society, our economic security, and our way of life, France must be clear-eyed about this threat,” said Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.). He currently sits in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) met with the Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, as House members showed support for Taiwan.
China had sanctioned the Reagan library for hosting Tsai as relation the Chinese Communist Party and the Biden administration are hostile.
Produced in association with Benzinga