Deeds, not Bluffs, President Macron!

Following his recent trip to China, French President Emmanuel Macron drew global attention with two remarks: First, that Taiwan is not Europe’s problem, and second that Europe should avoid being a constant ‘follower’ of the US. Quite the opposite he claims, the EU must emancipate itself and become a third global superpower – alongside the United States and China.

At best, the first statement is unreasonable and short-sighted. At worst, it is dangerous for Europe. Europe’s ‘dissociation’ from the strategic alliance with the USA is clearly disadvantageous for our continent. The US and its allies in the Indo-Pacific would be able to tackle China’s drive for dominance in the South China Sea and adjacent territories much more easily than we in Europe would be able to tackle, by ourselves alone, the threat posed by Russia and the challenge represented by an increasingly unsettled Africa.

The second remark, emphasising the need for Europe’s emancipation is appealing, politically ‘catchy’ and, in principle, correct. But it runs into issues as soon as one considers the paradox that France is doing absolutely nothing to turn that contention into reality.

To become a real superpower, the EU not only needs a robust common market, but also corresponding common armed forces, able to act as an effective deterrent and, if warranted, as a factor capable of averting an attack and defending European interests.

Common European armed forces can be created and effectively deployed only on the condition that the EU’s foreign policy and its decision-making are transformed to meet this purpose. It is precisely on this point where France is ‘blocking the door’ and shows no intention of removing said obstruction.

France would be making a very strong contribution to strengthening Europe’s position by vacating its seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, in favour of the European Commission. If France wished to make an even stronger contribution to increasing the European project’s authority, it could share its nuclear arsenal with Germany, Poland, and other EU countries. This with the ultimate objective of handing this arsenal over to the command of common, unified European armed forces.

And finally – the EU will not enjoy the esteem and respect it is due if the French President spends time parading on the red carpet at Beijing airport, while the Head of the European Executive is wandering down the side corridors of that same airport. In other words: if the EU has 27 national ‘chiefs’ plus the European one as a makeweight, and until EU citizens elect a single President with appropriate competences, the EU will be only a paper tiger on the global scale, rather than a real superpower.

Who else but the President of France should instigate concrete steps to transform the EU from being a paper tiger into a real superpower? Instead, the French president is giving speeches and dazzling audiences but, in essence, he is bluffing. Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are not the only ones who see it. A growing number of Europeans are beginning to realise this also, who have until now maintained their belief in the European project but are increasingly frustrated about the future.

This is what Macron must be reminded of at every opportunity. For it is France that holds the mixer which can help supply most of the concrete for our European house.