Johannesburg: French President Emmanuel Macron’s request for an invitation to the BRICS summit signals a rift in the US-led pro-Western Group of Seven, Koffi Kouakou, a senior research fellow at the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Africa-China Studies, told Sputnik.
Macron’s top diplomat, Catherine Colonna, said on Tuesday that the president was interested in coming to Johannesburg as an observer in August to attend the meeting of Brazilian, Russian, Indian, Chinese and South African leaders, the so-called BRICS group of major emerging economies.
“He is on a limb and what it shows is there is a fracture in the G7 and Western-led alliance and each of them including France, Germany … and other nations are looking forward to escape. In any case, the idea that France is knocking at the door to attend the BRICS summit is very important,” Kouakou said.
As the world changes, BRICS is becoming more and more important globally, Kouakou observed. The bloc accounts for over 40% of global GDP and more than a half of the world’s population. At least a dozen regional heavyweights representing the Arab world and the Global South have announced their bids to join the five-nation group, which Kouakou said was united by its vision of a multipolar world, as opposed to the US-promoted “rules-based order.”
The expert said Macron wanted to see for himself where the BRICS was going but admitted that it would be difficult for Paris to break free from Washington’s dominance. Macron sparked anger in the US in April when he said during a trip to Beijing that Europe should not be a US “vassal” in its standoff with China and suggested that many Europeans saw the need for strategic autonomy.
“They want to see where the world is going, who are the players and they are doing their homework, they want to come physically to see these people and know them, but their presence is going to send a strong signal across the board that France is interested in the direction that the world was taking and is trying to position itself to really take advantage of this shift, if there is interest,” Kouakou said.
Macron’s proposal was met with a mixed reaction from BRICS, with South African International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor calling the idea a departure from the practice of doing things. She said President Cyril Ramaphosa, the current BRICS chair, would be the one making the decision. Russia argued that Macron’s participation would be “inappropriate,” given Paris’ hostile policy toward Moscow.