Michel backs Macron on Europe’s shift from US

This file photo taken on Nov 9, 2022 shows President of the European Council Charles Michel speaks during a mini plenary session at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels. (PHOTO / AFP)

European Council President Charles Michel has thrown his weight behind French President Emmanuel Macron's call for European strategic autonomy from the United States, which has sparked controversy in the US and some corners of Europe.

Michel said on Tuesday that European leaders are becoming increasingly favorable toward Macron's push for "strategic autonomy" from the US.

The former Belgian prime minister suggested that Macron's position was not an isolated one among European Union leaders. He said while Macron spoke as the French president, his view reflects a growing shift among EU leaders.

"There has been a leap forward on strategic autonomy compared to several years ago," he told French TV show La faute a l'Europe to be aired on Wednesday, news website Politico reported on Tuesday.

"On the issue of the relationship with the United States, it's clear that there can be nuances and sensitivities around the table of the European Council. Some European leaders wouldn't say things the same way that Emmanuel Macron did.… I think quite a few really think like Emmanuel Macron," said Michel, who visited China in early December to meet Chinese leaders.

Macron told reporters on his flight from Beijing to Guangzhou, Guangdong province, during his state visit to China last week that Europe had to reduce its dependency on the US and avoid getting dragged into "crises that are not ours", referring to a possible crisis over the Taiwan Straits between the US and China.

Balazs Orban, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's political director, also supported Macron's view.

He said that at present the EU is uncritically adopting the US position wholesale, with US interests being presented simply as European interests.

"The actions being taken make it seem as if European interests are the same as American interests. At the moment, I don't see the EU or the larger EU countries striving for sovereignty — and not even the EU institutions are doing so," he said in a tweet on Monday night.

Macron continued to advocate for "European sovereignty" in a speech on Tuesday at the Nexus Institute in The Hague during a state visit to the Netherlands.

He said that European sovereignty might have once sounded like just a French idea or even wishful thinking. Macron pointed to the danger of a Europe that is too dependent on other world powers, saying it places Europe in the position of not being able to decide for itself.

European sovereignty should mean that the continent can "choose our partners and shape our own destiny" rather than being "a mere witness (to) the dramatic evolution of this world", he said. "This means that we must strive to be rule-makers rather than rule-takers."

Macron's plan for European sovereignty has six key measures, including a common defense budget, streamlining immigration and asylum procedures, and developing a new partnership with Africa.

Macron was on a two-day state visit to the Netherlands. He and his wife Brigitte were welcomed on Tuesday with military honors and national anthems at the Royal Place of Amsterdam by King Willem-Alexander and his wife Maxima.

It was the first state visit of a French president to the Netherlands since Jacques Chirac's trip there in 2000.

Agencies contributed to the story.