Submarine dispute: Brussels backs Paris
The EU has assured France of its support in the dispute with Australia and the US. Under the new Aukus pact, Australia's government has cancelled a 56-billion euro contract signed in 2016 for the purchase of French submarines and plans to buy US nuclear submarines instead. The EU has called the move unacceptable. Commentators caution against making too much of a fuss over the decision.
Friendship more important than a failed deal
It's time to stop and reflect, Les Echos advises:
“What may be most surprising about this submarine crisis is first of all that France and the United States have been long-standing allies for more than 250 years. ... And secondly, this crisis is surprising in that it comes now, eight months after President Joe Biden took over from Donald Trump, from whom we were used to hearing spectacular and provocative announcements. Hasn't the new president repeatedly said that he wants cordial and stable relations with his traditional allies? We should all calm down now, because the French-American friendship is worth more than a few submarines.”
Macron needs the EU now
This affair will pose considerable domestic problems for Emmanuel Macron, Dagens Nyheter believes:
“In next year's presidential campaign, Marine Le Pen (and probably the even more radical right-wing politician Eric Zemmour) will evoke France's great power of yore and promise a drastic change in foreign policy. Already [Le Pen] is accusing Macron of having catastrophically misjudged the situation. ... That's why the EU's support is important for the president. He can't afford to be subservient to the US or hopelessly isolated. The recent crises have strengthened his view that there is a need for an EU army that can defend the bloc - even without the help of the US.”
Why is Brussels getting involved?
The EU should keep out of this dispute, says The Spectator:
“The EU doesn't rush to the aid of Deutsche Bank when a bond trade gets scrapped, or Mercedes when a track order is cancelled ... In business, this stuff happens all the time. ... It doesn't usually spark a full-scale diplomatic conflict. So the reality is this: the EU is embarrassing itself. It is meant to be a rules-based organisation that believes in free and open competition. Instead, it is turning itself into little more than a branch of French industrial policy. ... It is hard to see what Poland, or Spain or the Czech Republic get out of scrapping talks on a trade deal with Australia to help a French arms manufacturer?”
Demands don't match reality
France must face the uncomfortable truth that it is lagging behind on the technology front, writes MEP Arnaud Danjean of the European People's Party in Le Figaro:
“Anger coupled with a review of our commitments to allies who behave so disrespectful cannot hide the need for lucid reflection. We must reflect not only on the causes of this diplomatic-industrial disaster, but also on what it reveals regarding a typically French phenomenon: the gap between the ambitions we proclaim with vigour on all international issues and the reality of our means, which often does not match our grandiose demands.”
France should join Aukus
“Australia buying American submarines instead of French ones has nothing to do with betrayal. The US's nuclear submarines use a completely different technology from the conventional French ones. Rather than making a big fuss, Paris should consider how it can join the military agreement between the US, Australia and Britain. France has no choice if it wants to defend its overseas territories in the Pacific in the face of Chinese expansion. Western democracies must unite if they are to have any chance of countering Beijing's efforts to gain control of the Pacific.”