French President Emmanuel Macron says Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are threatening Western values of openness and tolerance, but isolating them from Europe would be counterproductive.
“If you decide just to push them back from Europe and our values, saying ‘you’re betraying our values’, you lose them,” he told the BBC.
Many see the US and Russian leaders as resistant to liberal “elite” values.
Mr Macron was speaking in Abu Dhabi, where he opened a new Louvre Museum.
He called it a symbol of tolerance and diversity in the region.
“We’re at the epicentre of a series of conflicts and battles inside the Muslim world,” he said in an interview at the weekend. “It’s very important to me to support those defending an open Islam.”
He said the West had made a mistake in abandoning a “grand narrative” around its values and identity, and that France had a role in defending them abroad.
Plea for European ‘narrative’
“You need a collective narrative, a common goal, common imagination,” he said. “It was the strength of Daesh [so-called Islamic State] – it was a promise of death.
“And I think one of the problems of Western society and Western countries during the past decade was to abandon imagination, ambition, vision.
“No one falls in love with the single market, the financial market, labour reforms or budget perspective,” he continued. “[People] are motivated because of a big narrative.”
He said it was “paranoia, their [sense of] threat, and their willingness to protect something” that made leaders such as President Putin choose a different path, but that the Russian president was forgetting that part of his country’s own civilisation was about openness, and that its future was directly linked to Europe.
Mr Macron took office six months ago, promising to transform France’s economy, society, even its identity. Since then he has made 28 foreign trips and set out new proposals for the European Union, designed to give the bloc a collective vision and promote its benefits at home.