Europe’s Only Serious Leader Is French, Britain’s Mandelson Says

Derek Wallbank

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Europe doesn’t speak up more amid the ongoing U.S.-China trade war because of a simple “lack of leadership,” according to Peter Mandelson.

European leaders, he said, may ultimately want changes to unfair Chinese trade practices but don’t have the “stomach” to stand up to Beijing as forcefully as the U.S. might want. At the same time, they’re facing heavy American pressure to not just back President Donald Trump but avoid criticizing him altogether.

“I mean, we only have one serious European leader in place at the moment, and that’s, er, no, it’s not Boris Johnson,” he said to a roomful of laughter at the Milken Institute Asia Summit in Singapore.

“The only effective European leader we have at the moment is [Emmanuel] Macron, in France,” said Mandelson, a former European trade commissioner and U.K. Labour politician who served in Cabinet posts under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and is now Chairman of Global Counsel LLP. “He’s the only person who seems to have a vision of Europe, a view of the world, and has the words and the wit to speak up.”

Conspicuous in their absence from Mandelson’s assessment were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European institutional leaders such as Donald Tusk of Poland and Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg.

Europe, Mandelson said, has “got to wake up to its strategic interests,” find its voice and then speak up. “And that requires stronger European unity, not less of it.”

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