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Macron's call for strategic autonomy testifies to Europe's discomfort at being US vassals: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-04-13 19:30

France's President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a Nexus Institute event in the Amare theater, in The Hague, the Netherlands on Tuesday during his state visit to the country. LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP

On his way back from a three-day visit to China with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, in a Sunday interview with Politico and Les Echos, French President Emmanuel Macron again underlined the importance of European "strategic autonomy", arguing the EU should reduce its dependency on the United States and avoid getting dragged into a confrontation between China and the US over the Taiwan question. "The great risk" Europe faces, according to the French leader, is it "gets caught up in crises that are not ours".

His remarks have caused quite a stir. But just as President Macron has clarified, those words were consistent with both his own vision of Europe's future and the policies of his country. And, may we add here, those of the European Union.

Proponents endorse the French leader's vision of Europe establishing itself as an independent "third superpower"; critics blame him for undermining the transatlantic alliance, subscribing to the China-Russia proposal of a "multipolar world", with some even likening his approach to the notorious "peace in our time" appeasement policy of then United Kingdom prime minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938.

The strong backlash to his words has prompted the French leader to reaffirm during his state visit to the Netherlands that his government remains dedicated to preserving the status quo over Taiwan and a peaceful resolution of the matter, and that being a US ally doesn't mean being its thrall.

"Being an ally does not mean being a vassal... doesn't mean that we don't have the right to think for ourselves," he told a news conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

This is why Rutte agreed with his French guest that Europe "must be a player and not a playing field". This is also why European Council President Charles Michel said European leaders are increasingly sympathetic to Macron's push for "strategic autonomy".

Despite the "nuances and sensitivities" regarding relations with the US, Michel said, "Some European leaders wouldn't say things the same way that Emmanuel Macron did ... I think quite a few really think like Emmanuel Macron."

That in his eyes is a growing shift. If the US supposes that the EU will "blindly, systematically follow the position of the United States on all issues," then it is deluding itself, he said.

Following up on his "plan for Europe" put forward in 2017, President Macron began his visit to the Netherlands on Tuesday with a keynote speech on "European sovereignty" in which he said the continent should choose its own partners and shape its own destiny rather than being a mere witness to the dramatic evolution of the world.

The leaked documents showing the extent to which the US is orchestrating the conflict in Ukraine have made it clear that the ideologues in Washington will unhesitatingly lay the world to ruin with their eschatological conviction in the US' manifest destiny if they are enabled. Macron is right to call for prudence rather than unthinkingly following their lead.

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