Macron’s Own Goals Hurt Himself – and Europe

Benner Greek Contribution 2023
Source: Wikicommons
16 Apr 2023, 
published in
Η Καθημερινή

When going to China last week, French President Emmanuel Macron had two very worthy goals: get Communist Party Chairman Xi to adopt a more constructive role on Russia’s war against Ukraine and demonstrate that Europe speaks with one voice, also vis-à-vis China. He failed on both counts. 

It would have been tough to extract anything meaningful from Xi on Russia’s war given that he bases his support for Putin on the long-term need to have Russia by his side in the struggle with the US. But it would have been worth it for Macron to signal that Russia’s war touches European core interests, and any further support from Beijing – including sending weapons – will have strong consequences for the EU-China relationship. But by bringing a 50-strong business delegation, Macron instead sent a message of business-as-usual” to Xi, signaling that France and Europe care more about short-term economic deals than defending their interests.

Macron invited EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to join him in Beijing only to then discredit her core messages of de-risking” from China and the need to discourage Xi from using force against Taiwan. Macron turned the trip into a demonstration of European disunity on China. Even worse, Macron appeared to serve control over Taiwan to Xi on a silver platter to Xi. Macron seemed to hold the US solely responsible for the increase in tensions over Taiwan, disregarding both the democratic will of 24 million Taiwanese people and Xi’s aggressive moves preparing to realize his goal of taking over Taiwan. 

The damage goes deeper: by seeming to give Xi a free pass while turning against the US, Macron provided ample ammunition to the critics of his European sovereignty” agenda within Europe – just when we need investment into a more capable Europe the most.

This commentary is part of a larger article on French President Macron that was originally published in Kathimerini (available in Greek).