Germany’s Minister for Europe Michael Roth said France’s diplomatic crisis with the United States “aware us all” of the importance of unifying the often divided European Union over foreign and security policies.
Europe broke its silence and supported the angry France. France has accused the United States, Australia and Britain of cooperating covertly to negotiate the AUKUS defense pact and canceled Australia’s billion-dollar order for French submarines, replacing them with contracts with the US.
The solidarity shown by Germany and the top EU official was welcomed by France, which said fading trust with Washington strengthened the grounds for Europe to set its own strategic direction.
French minister for European affairs Clement Beaune called the dispute a “European problem” not just a problem for France. He reminded that when he arrived for ministerial level talks in Brussels. He added that the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan last August was also a source of irritation among EU member states.
European foreign ministers expressed solidarity with France after discussing the issue of the nuclear submarine deal at a meeting Monday evening, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.
Previously, Borrell said, the defense alliance between the US, Australia and the UK, announced last week, was inadvertently announced on the same day that the European Union put forward its Indo-Pacific strategy.
“Of course we are surprised by the announcement that comes with the sudden cancellation of the submarine contract with France by the Australian government, which they think coincides with this announcement. In ministerial discussions about it, this is considered very disappointing,” Borrell said.
“This announcement runs counter to calls for greater cooperation with the European Union,” Borrell said after a meeting in New York, where officials gathered for a meeting of world leaders at the UN General Assembly.
He said he met Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Monday, stressing that “current challenges to stability in the region require more cooperation and coordination among like-minded partners,” and “less confrontation.”
Last week, President Joe Biden announced a new alliance that includes the UK, which will provide Australia with at least eight nuclear-powered submarines to replace the 12 conventional diesel-electric-powered submarines that France will build.
France responded to this call by recalling its ambassadors from the US and Australia. [uh/lt]