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Not all happy with Macron as EU nations 'still smarting' with France over AUKUS deal fury

NewsNot all happy with Macron as EU nations 'still smarting' with France over AUKUS deal fury

AUKUS major humiliation for France says politics professor

Mr Macron’s victory over Marine Le Pen in Sunday’s vote was a clear win for the EU, too. With the departure from office of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the re-elected French President has become the bloc’s most powerful politician, and his devotion to the 27-member union is unmissable. But while his triumph over the Elysées’ top job sparked a sigh of relief in Brussels, not all is loved about the 44-year-old there. His commitment to the European project, for instance, has led him to make some of France’s problems the EU’s.

When Australia last year tore up a French submarine deal worth more than €50billion to instead acquire nuclear-powered subs from the US, Paris did not take it well, and went as far as to call the AUKUS row a “European issue”.

As per Politico, some in the union are “still smarting at France’s insistence at dragging them into last year’s row” over the pact.

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian labelled the announcement of AUKUS a “brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision” and, seemingly annoyed at the Americans more than at anyone else, said it reminded him of former US President Donald Trump.

In retaliation, French diplomats in Washington even cancelled a gala to celebrate ties between the US and France.

Canberra had signalled months before, in June, it was looking for a way out of the contract it signed in 2016 with French company DCNS (now known as Naval Group) to build 12 diesel-powered Barracuda submarines.

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Emmanuel Macron

France’s issues are ‘European issues’… a problematic mentality (Image: Getty)

Questioned by a Senate committee about issues with the project, Australia’s Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty said his government had been considering its options, including what it could do if it was “unable to proceed” with the French deal.

He added: “It became clear to me we were having challenges … over the last 15 to 12 months.”

Before that, in April, Canberra had refused to sign a contract for the next phase of the French submarine project, giving Naval Group until September to comply with its demands.

It was no secret that Australia had been looking to walk away – yet, when it finally did, Mr Macron let the world know he was not happy with the tri-lateral agreement that, while powerful, did not include his country.

For Mr Macron, the weight of the rift lay in how the three countries handled the situation – with US President Joe Biden admitting some blame as he described his talks with his counterparts Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison as “clumsy”.

AUKUS pact press conference

‘A stab in France’s back’: Australia, US and UK leaders hold AUKUS pact press conference (Image: Getty)

Emmanuel Macron and Ursula von der Leyen

Some in the EU are ‘still smarting’ at France for dragging them into the AUKUS row (Image: Getty)

As he met Mr Macron ahead of a G20 meeting in Rome, the US president said: “What happened was, to use an English phrase, what we did was clumsy, it was not done with a lot of grace.

“I was under the impression that France had been informed long before, that the (French) deal was not going through. Honest to God, did not know you had not.”

With Mr Johnson, the word exchange was slightly less diplomatic.

The French President privately called Mr Johnson a “clown” and “knucklehead”, while the Prime Minister let Mr Macron know he thought he was overreacting.

Speaking from Washington, he said: “I just think it’s time for some of our dearest friends around the world to prenez un grip about this and donnez-moi un break.

“This is fundamentally a great step forward for global security. It’s three very like-minded allies standing shoulder to shoulder creating a new partnership for the sharing of technology.

“It’s not exclusive. It’s not trying to shoulder anybody out. It’s not adversarial towards China, for instance.

“I find it very hard to see in this agreement anything not to like.”

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But Anglo-French relations have suffered from the deal, Paris argued.

French Europe minister Clément Beaune, making clear the EU was showing “solidarity” with France in its dispute with London, Canberra and Washington, said trust in Britain had already been damaged by Brexit, and claimed the bloc would need to rebuild confidence before a deal could be struck over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Beaune, speaking at a meeting of EU Europe ministers in Brussels, said: “We see when we look at the Brexit agreements that are not well implemented, that are not fully respected, we see it with the AUKUS project.

“There were some hidden things.

“So it’s not the best context to have trust between us.”

French election results

Macron’s victory, with 58.5% of the vote, levels up his power in the EU (Image: Daily Express)

The minister, a close ally of Mr Macron, went on to say the “highest EU authorities” have “been very clear to say — including to our US friends — this is a European issue”.

He added: “Of course, it creates a breach of trust and a worry on the French, but also on the European side.”

Amid warnings “the Europeans must stop being naive”, the AUKUS problem also led France to ramp up efforts to increase European military autonomy.

One example of how Mr Macron intends to achieve greater independence on the continent is the strategic defence and security cooperation pact for French frigates signed with Greek president.

Worth about €3billion, the deal saw Athens order some 24 Dassault-made Rafale fighter jets in 2021, making it the first European Union country to buy the warplane.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “This will tie us for decades.”

And Mr Macron, who on Sunday became the first French president in 20 years to win a second term, said: “When we are under pressure from powers, which at times harden (their stance), we need to react and show that we have the power and capacity to defend ourselves. Not escalating things, but protecting ourselves.”

The president on Sunday defeated-right contender Marine Le Pen with 58.54 percent of the vote, securing his place at the centre of EU decision-making through 2027.

The door to extend his role within the bloc beyond that is opening further, too, despite the fact Mr Macron’s attitude is said to not always be backed by member states.

How his relationship with his fellow Europeans and with the world, as a key bloc member, develops during his new term, only the years and the crises — war in Ukraine, immigration at the English Channel and fishing rights and, of course, defence — will tell.

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