French president says Europe needs to be ‘a more sovereign, a more united and democratic power.’
PARIS — Europe must increase military spending, but the money should go to European, not American companies, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview in which he delivered a rebuke to Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed nationalism.
Responding to a question in an interview about the political differences between himself and the American president, he said: “I’m not a nationalist, which is very different, for me, from being a patriot.”
The interview, on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria Global Public Square,” was taped before Sunday morning’s event at the Arc de Triomphe to commemorate the centennial of the armistice that ended World War I. But it suggested that Macron at least partly had Trump in mind when he delivered one of the most powerful lines in his speech at the ceremony, saying: “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism.”
With Trump sitting front and center in the audience of scores of world leaders, Macron added: “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying, ‘our interest first, who cares about the others?’”
In the CNN interview, Macron was asked about Trump’s tweet, shortly after arriving in Paris on Friday night, accusing Macron of being “very insulting” by calling for the creation of an EU army to help protect against threats, including Russia, China and even the United States.
France just happens also to have one of Europe’s biggest defense manufacturing industries.
By mentioning the U.S., Macron was specifically referring to Trump’s withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, as well as more broadly to Trump’s pullback from transatlantic cooperation, including on the Iran nuclear deal.
“I don’t know, I’m not the one to comment on his tweet,” Macron said. “I always prefer having direct discussion or answering questions [than] making my diplomacy through tweets.” At a meeting between the two leaders on Saturday at the Elysée Palace, Macron seemed to work to smooth things over, by repeatedly saying that he supports Trump’s calling for increased military spending by European NATO allies.
However, in the CNN interview, Macron clarified his point to say that he very much wants to see European allies not only spend more but to develop their own autonomous military capabilities and to buy European-made materials. France just happens also to have one of Europe’s biggest defense manufacturing industries.
U.S. President Donald Trump is welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron as he arrives in Paris on November 10 | Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images
“He is in favor of a better burden-sharing within NATO,” Macron said. “I agree with that. And I think that in order to have a better burden-sharing, all of us do need more Europe. And I think the big mistake — to be very direct with you — what I don’t want to see is European countries increasing the budget in defense in order to buy Americans’ and other arms or materials coming from your industry. I think if we increase our budget, it’s to have to build our autonomy and to become an actual sovereign power.”
He added, “I mean it’s part of our credibility vis-à-vis our people and vis-à-vis the rest of the world. And I think it’s fair. I think your president is right regarding that, and I think I’m right to precisely promote this idea … Europe has to become a more consistent, a more sovereign, a more united and democratic power.”
Macron’s endorsement of an “EU army” is hardly shared by all European leaders. Indeed, the idea is viewed as the ultimate incarnation of European defense and security — a goal for some leaders but a bridge too far for many who still view military and defense as sovereign, national responsibilities.
On the issue of nationalism, Macron said that he believes in the importance of national identities but he views nationalism and populism as dangerous political ideologies. Trump, by contrast, made “America First” a clarion call in his inaugural address and in the recent U.S. midterm congressional campaign, he proudly proclaimed himself to be a “nationalist.”
“I would say I’m a patriot,” Macron said in the CNN interview. “I do believe in the fact that our people are very important and having French people is different from German people. I’m not a believer in a sort of globalism without any differentiation … it makes our people very nervous. But I’m not a nationalist, which is very different, for me, from being a patriot. I do defend my people. I do defend my country. I do believe that we have a strong identity. But I’m a strong believer in cooperation between the different peoples, and I’m a strong believer of the fact that this cooperation is good for everybody, where the nationalists are sometimes much more based on a unilateral approach and the law of the strongest, which is not my case.”
Macron said he respects Trump’s efforts to fulfill promises made to U.S. voters, even where those goals represent disagreements with Macron’s own policy views.
The French president called for greater solidarity among EU countries, including Hungary and Poland.
“I like to deliver in line with my commitments during the campaign,” Macron said, adding: “And he’s doing exactly what he committed to do during his campaign. And I do respect that and I’m fine with that.”
Macron also talked in the interview about the need to strength the euro’s position as a global reference currency — not as a challenge to the U.S. dollar but as an alternative for purposes of stability.
The French president called for greater solidarity among EU countries, including Hungary and Poland, where politics in recent years has been characterized by right-wing populism.
“What Europe needs is to build its own capacities and its autonomy in order to protect itself,” he said. “That’s why I do want to build more solidarity within Europe. And I think it’s very important because if you want to build an actual Europe, if you want to reinforce the homogeneity and the strength of our Europe, you have to convey the message to people in Hungary, in Poland, in Finland and in very different places, that the day they have an issue, the day they are attacked, Europe is the one to protect them, and not another power.”