BRUSSELS: The European Union’s foreign policy chief announced that the bloc “regrets” for not being informed or consulted on the security agreement concluded between the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom for the Indo-Pacific region, indicating that it will work to “analyze its implications.”
During a presentation of the European Union’s strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, Josep Borrell said, “An agreement of this kind was not prepared yesterday. This takes time. But we were not informed, and we were not consulted. We deplore that.” However, he added, this would not lead to a “reconsideration of the relationship with the United States.”
“An analysis of the situation and the implications of this alliance will be carried out,” said Borrell’s spokesman, Peter Stano, noting that “the next meeting of EU foreign ministers, scheduled for October 18 in Luxembourg, will be an opportunity to discuss this alliance.”
Relations between France and the United States entered an open crisis Thursday, after Australia canceled the purchase of French submarines and replaced them with American ones operating with nuclear propulsion, prompting Paris to describe the matter as a “stab in the back” and a decision “in the manner of former US President Donald Trump.”
And on Wednesday evening, US President Joe Biden announced the launch of a strategic partnership with the United Kingdom and Australia, which includes supplying American submarines with nuclear propulsion in Canberra, which practically put the French out of the game.
“I understand the disappointment of the French,” Borrell said, adding, “This agreement forces us once again to think about the need to (…) develop the strategic independence of the European Union.” But he stressed that “it would be unfortunate to underestimate the importance of the EU’s cooperation strategy with the Indo-Pacific region.”
For his part, European Council President Charles Michel said that the new security partnership between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia “once again demonstrates the need for a common European Union approach in a region of strategic importance.” “A strong European strategy for the Indo-Pacific region is more necessary than ever,” he said.
“It is a question of a cooperation strategy with democratic partners who share our values, not a strategy of confrontation,” Borrell said, stressing that “the European Union wants to build ties with countries in the region, not create dependencies.”
He recalled, “This region is the future. The European Union is the largest investor with 12 trillion euros (12,000 billion).”
And he added, “40% of trade with the European Union passes through the China Sea, and the European Union has an interest in maintaining freedom of movement for navigation in this region.”
The Europeans have set themselves several priorities: achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the countries of the region that are large energy consumers, setting standards for the digital revolution with these countries, and calming and avoiding tensions.
“It won’t be easy, but we have to get involved,” Borrell said, noting that “not all member states have the same commitment in the region. It depends on interests and economic resources.”
He stressed that the European Union would need to cooperate with the United Kingdom. “There is not much enthusiasm on the part of British leaders, but if they so desire, we are ready,” he said.
Earlier, a spokesman for the European Union said that the Union had not been notified in advance of the new military partnership between the United States, Britain and Australia, which raises fears in Europe of Washington’s exclusionary approach.
On Wednesday, the leaders of the three countries announced their new alliance, in a move aimed at countering the expansion of Chinese influence.
An agreement to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines sparked France’s discontent, especially because of Canberra’s cancellation of a deal to buy submarines from Paris, which had been agreed upon earlier.
And on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Scott Morrison announced the new alliance, in a development that came on the eve of the European Union discussing the details of its strategy for the Indo-Pacific region.
The bloc seeks to consolidate its relations in the region, which it considers “of great strategic importance to the interests of the European Union.”
In April, Brussels said the strategy could include strengthening the European naval presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Many in Europe expressed their dissatisfaction with the way in which the United States withdrew from Afghanistan, and opponents of this move accused Biden of marginalizing his allies in this decision.