France's Macron offers mea culpa to eastern EU nations on Russia

  • World
  • Wednesday, 31 May 2023

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during the third ministerial conference of the Moldova Support Platform at the Ministerial Conference Centre in Paris, France, 21 November 2022. YOAN VALAT/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron offered a mea culpa to eastern European nations on Wednesday in saying France should have paid more attention to them amid their warnings about a belligerant Russia before its invasion of Ukraine.

In a speech in Bratislava, Macron told the GLOBSEC forum there should be no division between "Old Europe" and "New Europe", referring to enduring divergences between eastern and western European Union members over matters such as Russia.

"Some said you had missed an opportunity to stay quiet. I think we also lost an opportunity to listen to you. This time is over," Macron said to applause in the audience.

He was alluding to a remark in 2003 by then-French President Jacques Chirac, who said east European nations who sided with the United States and Britain in their decision to invade Iraq that year, opposed by some major western allies including France and Germany, had missed a "good opportunity to stay quiet".

The remark shocked east European countries and contributed to an enduring mistrust among the EU's newest members that has re-emerged since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

In the aftermath of the invasion, eastern EU countries such as Poland criticised Macron for keeping communication channels open with Russian President Vladimir Putin, or for saying that Russia should not be "humiliated" in the course of international efforts to end the Ukraine conflict.

(Reporting by Michel Rose; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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