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Macron doubles down on row with Trump and says Europe shouldn't buy US weapons

Macron said the two leaders had spoken about what his office has portrayed as a misunderstanding.

Donald Trump at the Elysee Palace in Paris with Emmanuel Macron.
Donald Trump at the Elysee Palace in Paris with Emmanuel Macron.
Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

EUROPE SHOULD NOT spend higher defence budgets on US-made weapons, French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview after a defence row with President Donald Trump.

One of dozens of world leaders attending World War I commemorations in France this weekend, Trump tweeted after landing in Paris that Macron’s call for a “real European army” was “insulting”.

In an interview recorded on Saturday with CNN after talks with Trump, Macron said the two leaders had spoken about what his office has portrayed as a misunderstanding.

“We had a regular discussion this morning and he confirmed in front of the press that he was ok,” Macron told CNN.

Both leaders agree there should be “better burden-sharing within NATO”, meaning Europe should be less reliant on US spending for its defence, Macron said.

But Macron told CNN: “To be very direct with you, what I don’t want to see is European countries increasing the budget in defence in order to buy American and other arms or materials coming from your industry.”

He added: “If we increase our budget, it’s to build our autonomy.”

Macron had last month criticised Belgium’s decision to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets instead of European planes, saying it “goes against European interests”.

He refrained from commenting on Trump’s “insult” tweet, beyond saying, “I always prefer having direct discussions or answering questions than making my diplomacy through tweets.”

In a radio interview this week, Macron had named the United States alongside China and Russia as sources of risk.

He said the EU needed to be less dependent on the United States, not least following Trump’s withdrawal from a Cold War-era nuclear treaty.

Trump on Friday called Macron’s comments “very insulting”. The French presidency later sought to defuse the row, saying Macron remarks had been misinterpreted.

Cooperation is good’

In his talks with the US leader Macron said he was merely arguing that Europe needed to take greater ownership of its own security, and Trump described the pair as “very good friends”. 

Macron however told CNN that while he and Trump had things in common — notably their rise to power as outside candidates — their outlook on the world was very different.

“I’m not a nationalist, which for me is very different from being a patriot. I do defend my people, I do defend my country, I do believe we have a strong identity,” Macron said.

“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.”

 © AFP 2018

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