A “new beginning” between France and Australia after the submarine crisis

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French President Emmanuel Macron and the new Australian Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met in Paris on Friday to improve bilateral relations between the two countries. It was badly damaged in the fall of 2021 with Canberra’s cancellation of a major contract to buy 12 French submarines.

To “rebuild trust” between their two countries, French President Emmanuel Macron and new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met on Friday 1er July in Paris. Franco-Australian bilateral relations are at their lowest since the submarine crisis last fall.

“We will talk about the future, not the past,” the French head of state said after welcoming Anthony Albanese in the courtyard of the Élysée Palace in Paris. The new Prime Minister, who sat in power in May after Labor won the general election, was “not responsible for what happened”, he added.

Emmanuel Macron pointed to high tensions between Paris and Canberra after Australia’s cancellation in September 2021 of a mega contract for 12 submarines, in favor of ships powered by the nuclear side in announcing the partnership in Aukus between Australia, United States. and United Kingdom.

The French president immediately accused Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison of fraud and the French ambassadors in Canberra and Washington were sent back to Paris, an unprecedented move.

In May, Scott Morrison’s election defeat made it possible to start turning the page, especially as Anthony Albanese sent positive signals to Paris. Following this week’s first meeting of the NATO summit in Madrid, the visit to Paris represents “a new beginning in bilateral relations”, the Australian Prime Minister said. By insisting that “trust, respect and honesty are essential”.

For his part, Emmanuel Macron expressed a desire “to rebuild a relationship of trust between our two countries, a relationship based on mutual respect after a difficult period”.

Cooperation in the field of security

The atmosphere was also very relaxed at the Élysée, where Emmanuel Macron was surrounded by his wife Brigitte to welcome Anthony Albanese and his partner Jodie Haydon.

After the interview and lunch, the Australian couple opened the exhibition of Aboriginal artist Mirdingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori at the Fondation Cartier in Paris.

At the Elysée, Anthony Albanese insisted that France was “not only a great European power, but also an Indo-Pacific and world power”. “Its commitment to the Indo-Pacific is necessary to meet the challenges facing our region,” he added, adding that the two countries can work together in the field of security.

Such a speech is in line with the will of Emmanuel Macron, who has insisted since 2017 on the importance for France to develop “an Indo-Pacific strategy”. Because “we are actors” in this vast region “we have a million citizens” living there and “more than 8,000 soldiers have been sent there”, the head of state detailed on Thursday, citing New Caledonia , Polynesia, Reunion or Mayotte.

He also said he wanted the freedom of our sovereignty to be “respected everywhere”, referring to China’s ambitions, which announced in April the signing of a “framework security agreement” in the Solomon Islands.

>> To also read: “In the case of submarines, France is paying for a ‘very soft’ policy vis-a-vis China”

“France and Australia will forge a new defense relationship”, based on “a commitment to the operation and exchange of intelligence”, “specifically to maritime surveillance”, Emmanuel Macron and Anthony Albanese specified in a joint releasing the news after their interview. They also want to increase cooperation ”from their defense industries, as Canberra recently agreed to pay French submarine maker Naval Group € 555 million for canceled submarines.

Other areas of cooperation to be developed include the fight against climate change, biodiversity and education, with France undertaking the establishment of the Australian international baccalaureate section, already in New Caledonia, in a a larger number of French schools, while the teaching of French will be strengthened in Australian schools.

With the AFP

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