1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Macron warns EU could 'die' in face of global competition

April 25, 2024

French President Emmanuel Macron said the European Union could be threatened by rivalry from the US, Russia and China if it does not achieve "strategic autonomy." He called for a "credible" EU defense strategy.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaking on Europe at Sorbonne University, Paris
Macron's speech covered a range of topics, including European security and defense policy as well as EU expansion and economic rivalriesImage: Christophe Petit Tesson/AP Photo/picture alliance

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday called for the establishment of a "more united, sovereign and democratic" Europe in the face of numerous geopolitical and economic challenges.

He made the comments during a speech at Paris' Sorbonne University.

What did Macron say during his speech on the EU?

"We need to be clear on the fact that our Europe is mortal — it can die," Macron said.

He said the bloc's survival "depends only on our choices." He warned that "the rules of the game" had changed and the EU was not "armed against the risks we face."

"We are still too slow and not ambitious enough," he said, calling for a "powerful Europe."

The French president has long called for the European Union to assert itself as a cohesive geopolitical bloc in the face of rivalry with the United States and China and is a strong supporter of Brussels' stated policy of achieving "strategic autonomy."

On Thursday, Macron accused Washington and Beijing of deciding "to stop respecting the rules of trade," citing the US Inflation Reduction Act. He said such policies could bring about the "impoverishment" of Europe.

"It cannot work if we are the only ones in the world to respect the rules of trade — as they were written up 15 years ago — if the Chinese and the Americans no longer respect them by subsidising critical sectors," he said.

Europe "must show that it is never a vassal of the United States and that it also knows how to talk to all the other regions of the world," Macron said.

The French leader said many European countries had "delegated" their defense to the US, energy to Russia and other matters to China.

He said recent "relocalization" efforts had been "unprecedented" in Europe's history, stressing that France had moved beyond its "industrial and technological naivety" and was "correcting" its trade policies while beginning to establish "technological sovereignty."

Macron hailed the  European Green Deal, saying Europe was the only part of the world sufficiently planning the implementation of its green transition.

However, he said the bloc's economic regulations had become "too complicated" and called for a reduction of red tape on small and medium-sized businesses.

Can the EU afford to expand?

Macron calls for 'credible' European defense

The French president said Europe needed to establish a "credible" defense strategy in the face of Russian aggression, including strengthening missile defense systems and maintaining nuclear deterrence.

He called for a preference to be given to European suppliers in the purchase of military equipment.

Macron said Europe was being "encircled," pointing to Russia's war in Ukraine and Iran's efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

"The principal danger for European security is the war in Ukraine, the sine qua non for our security is that Russia does not win this war of aggression," he stressed.

In February, Macron suggested that Paris didn't rule out sending ground troops to Ukraine in the future. In response, several NATO allies, Germany in particular, stressed that they did not plan to send troops.

During his speech on Thursday, Macron also said that the EU had made clear that Ukraine, Moldova and the western Balkans are part of the "European family" and would eventually join the bloc. He said Brussels had worked to support candidate countries to implement the reforms necessary for accession.

The French president said the EU has "begun to clearly reaffirm the existence of its borders," referring to a reform package on migration and asylum policy.

"There is no sovereignty without borders," he said.

sdi/sms (Reuters, AFP)