AUKUS - House of cards of foreign relations ?
Paris, 18th of September 2021
On 15 September, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia announced the creation of the "Aukus" alliance to strengthen their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. This announcement was surprising in many ways: it will lead to nuclear proliferation by sharing nuclear submarine technology know-how with Australia, which in turn is withdrawing from the €56 billion 'contract of the century' with the French NavalGroup for conventional submarines. In addition, neither France nor Europe had been informed in advance by their allies, which is also causing a stir in diplomatic circles. After the recent sudden withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan, France seems once again to stand on the sidelines of geopolitical powerplays.
Reshuffling of cards
The timing was on point. On the day, Europe announced its Indo-Pacific strategy and on the eve of our participation in the anniversary of the naval battle of the Chesapeake - a key moment in American independence - we must ask ourselves not only whether we are measuring the weight of our transatlantic ties in kilograms when our partners calculate in pounds, but also which role we want to play in this changing geopolitical stage.
Contrary to the UK, who left the EU and moved swiftly towards embracing its long-standing allies and Commonwealth partners, stretching itself to put one foot into the Indo-Pacific and the other on US soil, we should take a longer-term view with regards to our position and objectives.
Let’s not forget that more than 1.6 million French citizens live in the Indo-Pacific - a region, which is also home to three of the four largest economies outside of the EU (China, Japan and India). It is a crucial region for global stability and peace: France has therefore defined its strategic objective for the region in 2018 by committing to promoting a multipolar and stable order. This means not only trying to prevent regional conflicts and ensure the security of maritime routes, but also promoting common goods such as climate protection, biodiversity, education, digital technologies and infrastructure. With the Aukus alliance increasing tensions in the region, most notably with China, these objectives become more important than ever.
Continuing to play the European card
If there is one lesson to be learned from the last few months, it is that we cannot do it alone. Ursula von der Leyen underlined that defence was a priority in her recent state of the Union address and announced a defence summit next year with Emmanuel Macron. Let's take the gesture as a call to create a common European military and foreign policy. France has the expertise in these areas to lead the way, but it requires an effort for more Europe, not more France in Europe. Similarly, the EU's Indo-Pacific strategy represents a framework within which we can contribute our own strategy and interests and work alongside our partners rather than alone.
The European Union was founded on the idea of cooperation and economic ties preventing future conflicts. This idea aligns strongly with our interests in the Indo-Pacific - why not carry it actively beyond European borders and make a sustainable and equitable global economic system a distinctive feature of our European foreign policy? This would allow us to progress on issues within Europe - such as the digital tax currently on hold at European level due to US resistance or an initiative for CO2 pricing. Instead of sharing military know-how and increasing the risk of conflict, let's define our global role by sharing know-how and technologies to keep our planet habitable.
There is a card to play and we can define its message with our European partners - it is the card of a united and federal Europe with a European foreign policy based on the experience of its member states - above all those of France.
In this respect, we should thank our allies for reminding us that it is our turn to play.
Eric Galéra - Responsible Press and Media Relations, Volt France
Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Volt France is the French branch of the pan-European political movement Volt Europa, founded in March 2017 and present in all EU countries. In 2019, Volt won over half a million votes across the continent in the European elections and won its first seat in the European Parliament. In 2021, Volt won three seats in the Dutch parliament as well as numerous local seats in Italy, Germany and Bulgaria. Volt wants to tackle pressing issues such as the climate emergency, social inequalities and economic crises through a more democratic and unified Europe.