AMSTERDAM (AP): French President Emmanuel Macron is set to deliver a speech outlining his vision for the future of Europe during a two-day state visit to the Netherlands that began Tuesday.
The afternoon speech at a theater in The Hague comes after Macron raised eyebrows with comments on Taiwan after his recent visit to China.
“The question we need to answer, as Europeans, is the following: Is it in our interest to accelerate (a crisis) on Taiwan? No,” Macron was quoted as saying in an interview published Sunday in French newspaper Les Echos and by Politico Europe.
“The worst 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.”
The remarks raised questions about whether Macron’s views are in line with the European Union’s position and whether the bloc of 27 is able to become the “third superpower” that Macron says he hopes to build within “a few years.”
The interview was Friday, before China launched large-scale combat exercises around Taiwan that simulated sealing off the island in response to the Taiwanese president’s trip to the U.S. last week.
Macron emphasized the concept of “strategic autonomy” for Europe which he has promoted for years. He warned of what he called the “trap” that would lead to the bloc “getting caught up in crises that are not ours.”
China and Taiwan split in 1949 after a civil war. The government in Beijing says the island is obliged to rejoin the mainland, by force if necessary.
Macron’s trip to Amsterdam and The Hague is the first state visit by a French leader since Jacques Chirac 23 years ago and underscores the close links between the Netherlands and France and the two leaders.
After arriving in Amsterdam, Macron and Dutch King Willem-Alexander inspected a guard of honor on the square outside the capital’s royal palace as a military band played and the French and Dutch flags fluttered in a brisk breeze.
After the honor guard and before Macron solemnly laid a wreath at the national monument near the palace in the historic heart of the city, a small group of people protesting Macron’s pension reforms briefly held up a banner in French that said: “We will not be beaten into retirement.”
Macron later travels to The Hague for a meeting with leaders of both houses of the Dutch parliament before delivering his speech.
In the evening, Macron and his wife ,Brigitte, return to Amsterdam for a banquet hosted by Willem-Alexander.
On Wednesday, Macron’s itinerary includes visiting a science park in Amsterdam, talks with Prime Minister Mark Rutte and viewing a blockbuster exhibition of paintings by Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer at the Rijksmuseum.