French President Emmanuel Macron Tuesday outlined his vision for European economic and industrial sovereignty during a visit to the Netherlands, following criticism over recent remarks about China and the United States.
Speaking at a Dutch research organization in The Hague, Macron said it was essential the European Union carve out an independent stance on five key areas, including trade, competitiveness and European industry. Embedded across all, he said, should be European values and goals in areas such as climate change.
“We want to be open," said the president. "We want allies, we want good friends, we want partners. But we always want to be in a situation to choose them. Not to be 100 percent dependent on them.”
Macron said Tuesday the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war on Ukraine helped drive the need for an independent European strategy — not reliant, for example, on either Chinese or U.S. technology.
“Defending sovereignty doesn’t mean to shy away from allies," he said. "It means we must be able to choose our partners and shape our own destiny, rather than being, I would say, a mere witness of the dramatic evolution of this world.”
Macron made his remarks during a state visit to the Netherlands — the first by a French president in more than two decades. The comments follow a controversial interview with French and U.S. media, when he reportedly warned against Europe becoming entangled in unrelated crises — apparently referring to Taiwan — and becoming too dependent on the United States for defense.
China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has vowed to reunite the territory with the mainland – by force if necessary – and is opposed to any nation maintaining separate ties with Taipei.
Poland’s prime minister responded by calling Europe’s alliance with the United States key to European security. U.S. Republican Senator Marco Rubio questioned whether Macron was really speaking for Europe.
Macron’s economic overture to China has also stirred controversy. He brought a large delegation of French business leaders on his visit there last week and sipped tea with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. Their meeting took place at a time when critics want China to toughen its stance toward Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
This isn’t the first time Macron has sketched out a broad EU vision that isn't necessarily shared by all member states. Protesters heckled him at the start of his speech — reminding him of ongoing demonstrations back in France against his pension reform plans.