EU foreign ministers, meeting in New York, expressed strong support for France against the United States, following the loss of the mega-contract for the sale of submarines. An “unacceptable” situation which affects “the whole of the EU” denounced the leaders of the bloc. Yet behind unity, divisions persist among member countries.
“Full solidarity with France”. Meeting in New York on Monday, September 20, on the sidelines of the UN Annual General Assembly, the Foreign Ministers of the Twenty Seven united in denouncing the cancellation of the Australian submarine contract for the benefit of the Americans . An “event that goes against all calls for more cooperation with the European Union in the Indo-Pacific” declared the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell.
The transaltant diplomatic crisis has shaken up the reunion of multilateralism at the UN, with Europeans supporting France, which is not angry with the United States, despite President Joe Biden’s attempt at appeasement. For them, the Franco-American dispute over the announcement of an alliance between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia “affects” the whole of the EU “through its strategic implications, explained Josep Borrell.
‘The problem is not so much on the fact that it is about an armament contract, (…) it is a political problem “analyzes Armelle Charrier, international columnist at France 24. France appears as “a second ally of the Americans” which suggests that in the event of a problem in the Indo-Pacific zone, “the allies on which we rely are other than the French”.
Joe Biden, who arrived in New York on Monday for his first General Assembly of the United Nations, wanted to highlight the “return” of America as a reliable partner with its allies abused during four years of Donald Trump’s mandate.
But his message has been scrambled since his announcement, on September 15, of a security pact concluded with Australia and the United Kingdom to counter Beijing, nicknamed Aukus. This new partnership ignited the transatlantic powders, because it was done behind the backs of the French, who lost a huge contract for submarines ordered by Canberra.
Jean-Yves Le Drian denounced, as he has been doing for several days but this time on American soil, a “brutal” decision, a “lack of consultation”, and a “breach of confidence between allies”. This is akin to “reflexes of an era we hoped are over,” he hammered, in a new clear allusion to the Trump era.
France, which has recalled its ambassadors in Washington and Canberra in an unprecedented gesture, remains firmly against this “betrayal”. It had already received support from EU leaders earlier today.
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, judged “unacceptable” the way in which Paris was “treated”, in an interview on the American channel CNN.
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, also denounced a “lack of loyalty” on the part of the United States and pleaded for a strengthening of the “capacity for action” of the EU on the international scene.
Yet this position of unity against the United States will not be easy to maintain, according to Armelle Charrier: “Poland, the Baltic countries are very Atlanticist” explains the columnist, stressing that these nations consider the Americans as a bulwark against Moscow. . “German reactions are also very moderate,” she points out. “The French are calling for European sovereignty today, but in concrete terms it will be difficult”.
Joe Biden plays appeasement
Joe Biden, for his part, took the lead by promising to reopen the American borders, closed to Europeans for more than a year because of Covid.
If the decision was taken on health grounds, the solution found is also the fruit of diplomacy, slipped a senior American official, suggesting that the timing was not unrelated to the transatlantic crisis.
A consolation prize little tasted by Paris. “It’s a good thing. Why are you coming so late?”, Quipped the head of French diplomacy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, during a press conference, recalling that it was a long-standing request Europeans.
London and Washington had already tried, during the weekend, to coax their French ally. “Our love for France is unwavering,” Briton Boris Johnson said on the plane that took him to New York.
Faced with requests for “clarification” from Paris and Brussels, President Biden is “impatient” to discuss “the way forward” on the phone with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, who has given up on going to New York, said a senior US official, confirming that the Democratic leader had requested such an interview. “We understand the French position” even if “we do not share it”, he added.
This eagerly awaited phone call will take place “in the coming days”, only said Jean-Yves Le Drian, slipping that he had not, for his part, “planned a meeting” with the head of the American diplomacy Antony Blinken. In fact, the American agenda appears to be a summary of the diplomatic priorities of the White House.
Joe Biden only planned to meet on Tuesday, on the sidelines of the UN meeting, the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, before receiving the head of the British government, Boris Johnson, on his return to the White House. Antony Blinken spoke to him on Monday with his new British counterpart, Liz Truss.