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Europe's week: Macron's comments about Taiwan reveal EU division

Macron's words sparked controversy in the EU.
Macron's words sparked controversy in the EU. Copyright Chiang Ying-ying/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Chiang Ying-ying/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Efi Koutsokosta
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In our weekly programme we follow the outcome of the French president's official visit to China.


A trip to China by president of France, Emmanuel Macron, and the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, ended in a full week of controversy in the European Union.

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 including on the matter of Taiwan's security. The comments were published in two media outlets after Macron visited China last week, where he met with President Xi Jinping.

His words didn't please Washington but didn't please some of his EU counterparts either.

And while French diplomats focused this week on post-Macron damage control, the president doubled down on his initial remarks.

"France supports the status quo in Taiwan. France supports the one-China policy and the search for a peaceful settlement of the situation. This is the position of the Europeans and it is a position that has always been compatible with the role of ally," said Macron.

"It is precisely here that I insist on the importance of strategic autonomy between allies does not mean being vassal. It is not because we are allies that we do things together that we decide to do, that we no longer have the right to think alone.”

Meanwhile, Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is the latest top EU politician to visit China.

She offered some support to Macron stressing that he had "once again emphasised that France's China policies reflected EU China policies one-to-one."

Kaili is out

The second big story this week in the EU bubble was Eva Kaili's release from jail.

The Greek MEP, who has become the most recognisable face of the corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament, was released from prison on Friday, where she spent the last four months in pre-trial detention.

The embattled lawmaker was then placed under house arrest in her apartment in Brussels, wearing an electronic bracelet. She will need to be available for authorities at all times and undergo regular hearings to examine her conditional release, which was unexpectedly granted on Wednesday.

The Greek MEP was first arrested on 9 December, when she was reportedly caught in the act and her parliamentary immunity was immediately lifted.

The 44-year-old lawmaker was then charged with participation in a criminal organisation, corruption and money laundering, charges that still stand.

Her arrest sent shockwaves across Brussels and brought to light an investigation into a cash-for-favours scheme involving "large" sums of money and "substantial" gifts allegedly paid out by Qatar and Morocco to influence European policy-making.

Both countries deny any wrongdoing.

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