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Macron pitches for greater EU role in Indo-Pacific after AUKUS debacle

Move comes after assurances from Biden that Europe remains critical to the region

French President Emmanuel Macron.

French President Emmanuel Macron. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — French officials on Monday (Oct. 4) said their president, Emmanuel Macron, planned to tell European counterparts the AUKUS debacle presents an opportunity to prove to the U.S. the EU can play a key role in the Indo-Pacific at an informal gathering in Slovenia this week.

At the meeting, which took place on Tuesday (Oct. 5), Macron updated his counterparts on his recent discussion with U.S. President Joe Biden in the aftermath of the AUKUS deal.

The AUKUS deal, which involved Australia canceling a big submarine contract with France and signing on for U.S.-designed subs instead, caused tension between France and its Western allies. It also resulted in France briefly recalling its ambassador to Washington, according to a Reuters report.

"There really is an opportunity here,” Macron told reporters, striking a new tone. EU countries can play a strategic role in the Indo-Pacific region with the U.S., including in trade, security, and defending freedom of navigation, the official said, without elaborating further.

The news comes after Biden held a phone call with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday (Oct. 4), in which the American leader assured her of the EU’s importance in the Indo-Pacific, according to a report by Deutsche Presse-Agentur, a German news agency.

A White House statement on the call said Biden called the EU “a fundamental partner for the United States.”

"We don't want to push Europeans into making a sort of binary choice between partnership with the U.S. or Europe turning inward," one of Macron’s advisers said. "The issue is how to create the conditions for a partnership in the best interests of Europeans, knowing the United States obviously remains our ally,” he said.

The U.S. will remain our close ally, he went on, now the issue becomes how should we best coordinate so that European interests are factored into the broader strategy. Macron has been advocating for greater European autonomy in the realm of defense for years.

Yet the former investment banker has struggled to convince other EU leaders to get on board with his vision. Many countries in east Europe who enjoy the security umbrella NATO offers worry Macron’s policies will weaken the transatlantic security alliance, per reports.

Updated : 2021-12-04 19:54 GMT+08:00