European People’s Party chief Manfred Weber took a jab at French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial comments on China, the U.S. and Taiwan, saying they highlighted the bloc’s lack of a common China policy.
“Macron’s interview has been a disaster, and made clear the great rift within the European Union in defining a common strategic plan against Beijing,” Weber said in an interview published Monday with Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
Weber called on European leaders to “find an agreement” on China during the next European Council in June.
Macron triggered outrage among Western allies after a recent interview with POLITICO, in which he said that Europe should steer clear of becoming a follower of the U.S.’s China policy — including on Taiwan. China claims the self-governing island as part of its own territory.
“The question Europeans need to answer … is it in our interest to accelerate [a crisis] on Taiwan? No,” said Macron. “The worse thing would be to think that we Europeans must become followers on this topic and take our cue from the U.S. agenda and a Chinese overreaction.”
In his interview with Corriere della Sera, Weber said the French president’s comments had “weakened the EU.”
“Now, Eastern countries will be more aligned with Washington than with Paris or Berlin,” he said.
Macron’s comments sparked a broad backlash on both sides of the Atlantic.
Mike Gallagher, the Republican chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, called them “embarrassing” and “disgraceful.”
A group of China-skeptic lawmakers from around the world also lambasted the French president, saying his remarks were particularly ill-timed as the Chinese military was undertaking large-scale military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.
In Europe, Norbert Röttgen, a German Christian Democrat MP and former head of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, tweeted that Macron had “managed to turn his China trip into a PR coup for [Chinese President Xi Jinping] and a foreign policy disaster for Europe.”
Weber himself quickly reacted to the interview last week, tweeting that there was “no middle ground between international law and the pursuit of empire by autocrats” and that Europe ought to “strengthen [its] alliance with the U.S.”
Elena Giordano contributed reporting.