Is Macron's idea of 'strategic autonomy' the path to follow for EU relations with the US?

France's President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Sun Yat-sen university in Guangzhou, China, Friday, April 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
France's President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Sun Yat-sen university in Guangzhou, China, Friday, April 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus) Copyright Thibault Camus/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Gregoire Lory
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The French president's comments about Taiwan have sparked controversy among his European counterparts.

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Emmanuel Macron's comments about Taiwan and his call for European "strategic autonomy" sparked controversy as he advocated for the EU not to become followers of the US and China.

The comments were published in two news outlets after Macron visited China last week, where he met with President Xi Jinping.

For some, his remarks could crack European unity and transatlantic solidarity, but not all observers denounce the strategic autonomy defended by Paris.

"President Macron has for several years now, repeatedly emphasised his view that Europe should develop what he calls strategic autonomy... I don't see that as a threat to transatlantic unity at all," said Dan Baer, director of the Europe Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Baer says that it would be also in the US' best interest to defend a European strategy.

"I think there are plenty of people in the US who would support the idea that Europe should do more to be a strategic actor in its own right," the analyst said.

"And Europe stepping up to do more, especially in the light of the threats both proximity and global in today's area would be a good thing".

Some have criticised the timing of the comments, as after Macron left China, Beijing launched military exercises encircling Taiwan.

For Mario Esteban, an analyst at Real Instituto Elcano the idea of a European third way seems complicated because the security of the EU currently depends on the United States.

"We should follow the US as far as it is in our interest," he said. "It's obvious that our values and our interests are not the same as the US but are closer to the US than to China.

"I don't think we should blindly follow the US but talking about neutrality or equidistance here, I think it's not very realistic because neither our values nor our interests are equidistant from Washington and Beijing," he said.

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