The French President has once again made his voice heard in the EU this week, this time on the bloc’s foreign policy. Mr Macron urged the EU and US not to gang up on China as the country comes under scrutiny for its treatment of Uighur Muslims and its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr Macron said this week: “A situation to join all together against China, this is a scenario of the highest possible conflictuality [sic]. This one, for me, is counterproductive.” The EU recently reached a trade pact with China, but some are concerned this could prevent Brussels from holding Beijing to account for its alleged human rights violations.
This isn’t the first time the French President has taken a lead on EU policy, having been vocal on defence spending and Brussels’ stance on Russia in recent years.
However, his efforts to fill a leadership vacuum in Europe hasn’t pleased everyone, according to Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform.
He told the New York Times in 2019: “The French [government] think that they can act unilaterally without talking to everyone and get away with it, because they have a dynamic young leader with power and no one else does.”
Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, also added that France has seen itself as a policy leader in Europe.
He said: “Now with Britain distracted, Germany undergoing a protracted leadership transition, the US undependable, it’s inevitable that France, with a clear foreign policy and aims, would argue that Europeans need to recalibrate their self-interest and act upon it.
“The problem is that since everyone else is weaker, people worry about being bulldozed, since Germany is not acting as a counterweight and Britain is out.”
Mr Niblett added Mr Macron “is acting with too heavy a hand.”
The two experts made their comments in November 2019, after Mr Macron had claimed NATO is “brain dead”.
His comments provoked a furious response from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, branding it an “attack”.
“Contracts are not moral commitments, they are legal commitments. Penalties or sanctions can be triggered in every contract.”
Peter Altmaier, the German economy minister, had already made a similar threat.
He said: “If we find out that individual companies are not maintaining their side of the bargain then we’ll have to make a decision on legal measures.”
Leaders in Brussels have come under international scrutiny after last week’s controversy over coronavirus vaccines.
The EU faced off with AstraZeneca after it warned it would only be able to deliver a quarter of vaccines originally agreed.
The company meanwhile reassured the UK that it would fulfil its contract.
The EU then threatened to override the Northern Ireland protocol – part of the Brexit trade deal with the UK – to control the borders.
Following widespread condemnation, the EU backed down.