2021-09-21 14:20:39 U.S.-France Dispute Divides Europe – The New York Times

U.S.-France Dispute Divides Europe – The New York Times

European officials are split on how much support to give France in its diplomatic spat with the US and Britain over a nuclear submarine deal. Some have questioned the Biden administration’s commitment to a strong alliance with the European Union, but they have not taken concrete steps.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, said on Monday that “one of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable,” adding that she would seek to “know what happened and why” in an interview with CNN.

“As a result, you must first clarify that before proceeding with business as usual,” Ms. von der Leyen stated.

However, while French officials have condemned the security agreement between the United States, Britain, and Australia, known as AUKUS, Europe has been divided on how to respond. With the dispute looming in the background at the United Nations General Assembly, some, led by France, have argued that the deal’s cancellation represented a critical breach of trust. Last week, Paris recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia after Australia backed out of a $66 billion deal to buy French-built submarines in favor of nuclear-powered submarines manufactured in the United States.

While the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, said on Monday that the bloc’s foreign ministers had expressed “clear solidarity” with France, others have called the dispute a bilateral matter, fearing that harsh condemnations would harm wider interests.

According to a European diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the schism has become a European issue, with French officials seeking to postpone the first meeting of a new E.U.-US Trade and Technology Council scheduled for September 29. On Tuesday, a French official declined to comment.

The dispute may also have an impact on trade talks between the European Union and Australia, which the French have stated cannot continue for the time being.

On Tuesday, Bernd Lange, the chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, told ABC, an Australian broadcaster, that “trust is now missing.”

The submarine deal came after the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, about which European leaders claimed they were not consulted. Many officials who had welcomed President Biden’s election — and his pledge that “America is back” — are now concerned.

“What does ‘America is back’ mean?” On Monday, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, which represents the leaders of the EU’s 27 members, told reporters in New York. “Is America back in America or elsewhere? We have no idea.”

Some European officials have warned against excessive French escalation, arguing that the EU cannot serve as a vehicle for French interests. According to the European diplomat, French President Emmanuel Macron has frequently taken the lead in promoting more “strategic autonomy” for Europe, only to discover that few E.U. members are following.

“Just a timid reminder: France is not running the E.U. trade policy,” said Reinhard Bütikofer, a European Parliament member, on Monday.

“Of course, we cannot act as if nothing had happened,” he continued, “but how the EU will react is not decided unilaterally by Paris.”

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U.S.-France Dispute Divides Europe - The New York Times