A top French Foreign Ministry official has criticized the European Union (EU) for relying on the White House to “ensure” the bloc’s security issues, amid a deep row with the United States and Australia over a submarine deal.
Secretary of Foreign Affairs Clement Beaune told broadcaster France 24 on Saturday that Europe needs to “strengthen [its] capacities for reflection, strategic autonomy, and defense.”
“Why would the Americans ensure our defense in [the] matter? It's up to us to do it.”
He said the EU has “the expertise, the financial means, and the capacity” to provide its own security.
France has been in a diplomatic spat with Australia and the US since Canberra scrapped a 2016 multibillion-dollar submarine contract with France for a trilateral nuclear pact with America and Britain.
Under the new Australia-UK-US alliance (Aukus), Washington will share technology for building nuclear-powered submarines with its Australian allies. Canberra would be building at least eight nuclear submarines.
For France — a NATO member and the US’s oldest ally — this trilateral alliance represents direct economic loss and dashes hopes about renewed diplomatic closeness with Washington, which was deteriorated during the administration of former US President Donald Trump.
The French diplomat also hit out at Canberra in his remarks to France 24.
“It's a serious breach of trust with Australia.”
“We’re having trade negotiations with Australia,” he said. “I don’t see how we can trust our Australian partners.”
On Friday, France recalled its ambassadors to Australia and the US over the row.
Australia says it looks forward to engaging with France again, and that it “values its relationship with France.”
Some say the termination of the deal and France’s exclusion from the alliance could be a considerable humiliation for Paris.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, also complained on Thursday that Brussels was kept out of the loop on the Aukus partnership.
“We regret not having being informed, not having been part of these talks,” said Borrell. “I understand how disappointed the French government will be.”
European Council chief Charles Michel wrote on Twitter, “The Aukus security partnership further demonstrates the need for a common EU approach in a region of strategic interest.”
He said the EU leaders would discuss the alliance at a meeting in October.