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EU foreign ministers to discuss submarine dispute

AFP/New York
Filed on September 20, 2021
European Union flags. — Reuters file

The meeting will take place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly

European Union foreign ministers will discuss Australia’s scrapping of a $40 billion submarine order with France today, a move that has enraged Paris and cast a shadow over free trade talks between the EU and Australia.

The meeting will take place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York at 2200 GMT (2am UAE time), a spokesperson for the European Commission told reporters in Brussels.

Australia said last week it would cancel an order for conventional submarines from France and instead build at least eight nuclear-powered submarines with US and British technology after striking a security partnership with those countries under the name AUKUS.

To show its displeasure, France recalled its ambassadors from Canberra and Washington.

It is not clear if the dispute will have implications for the next round of EU-Australia trade talks, scheduled for October 12.

“We are analysing the impact of the AUKUS announcement and what the impact would be on this schedule,” a Commission spokesperson said.

Some officials in Brussels interpreted the US-led security deal as a wake-up call and a warning not to rely too much on a complete reversal of US policies after the departure of former President Donald Trump from the White House.

“The AUKUS agreement is a case in point: It shows that there is some continuity in an ‘America First’ approach despite the change of administration in the US,” an EU diplomat said.

“The United States isn’t pulling out of Europe. However, the US focus has clearly shifted to China and the Indo-Pacific region. One of the consequences of this shift is that Europe will have to do more for its own defence.”

Earlier, the chaotic evacuation from Afghanistan had prompted fresh calls for a European rapid reaction force to reduce the bloc’s dependence on the US military.

The United States has sought to assuage the anger in France, a NATO ally. The French government said on Sunday that President Emmanuel Macron would have a call with US President Joe Biden in the next few days.





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