EU backs France in submarine dispute with Australia

The European Union has pledged support for France in the dispute over the collapsed sale of French submarines to Australia.

Brussels, 21 September 2021 (dpa/MIA) – The European Union has pledged support for France in the dispute over the collapsed sale of French submarines to Australia.

EU foreign ministers discussed the matter at a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York and considered the situation “very disappointing,” EU foreign affairs envoy Josep Borrell said on Tuesday.

“Ministers expressed their clear solidarity with France.”

He said the issue was not only of concern to France, but to the entire EU.

Australia last week agreed to a nuclear-powered submarine deal as part of a tripartite pact with the United States and Britain, cancelling a 56-billion-euro (66-billion-dollar) 2016 contract with Paris for 12 French-designed diesel-powered submarines.

Borrell said he had expressed regret at the EU’s exclusion from the alliance in a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

Trade and technology policy talks between the bloc and the United States are in danger of being delayed because of the row.

Preparations for the meeting have been struck from the agenda by the Slovenian presidency of the European Council. EU ambassadors had been set to discuss it on Wednesday.

The EU-US meeting, the first of its kind, is set to take place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on September 29. But an EU Commission spokesperson on Tuesday refused to rule out that the talks could be delayed.

France’s Secretary of State for Europe, Clement Beaune, also said he did not rule out breaking off ongoing negotiations between the EU and Australia on a free trade agreement.

A spokesperson for the European Commission, which is conducting the negotiations on the free trade agreement on the basis of a mandate from the EU states, had already said on Monday that the effects of the submarine deal were being analysed.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has strongly backed Paris over the furore and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has describing the new alliance as “irritating.”

“It’s sobering, not just for France,” he told reporters.

“I can well understand the anger of our French friends.”

US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched the new alliance in an apparent effort to counter a military threat from China in the Indo-Pacific.

France has now tried to show its clout in the same region after President Emmanuel Macron held telephone talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The duo agreed that the goal is to promote stability and rule of law in the region and prevent any power from gaining prominence, the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

France is also prepared to help India achieve strategic independence with industrial and technological aid, as well as building up economic relationships between the countries, the statement added.

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