Germany declines to back France in submarine row

France’s harsh reaction is “understandable”, SPD foreign policy speaker MP Nils Schmid told EURACTIV, but stressed that “we don’t have any interest in a further escalation and want to continue the close collaboration with the USA and Australia.” [Dennis van de Water/Shutterstock]

Germany has declined to support France in its ongoing diplomatic spat with the US, UK, and Australia after the latter torpedoed a multi-billion-dollar submarine deal with France in favour of a deal with Washington and London. Germany has instead opted for a more conciliatory approach.

France’s harsh reaction is “understandable”, SPD foreign policy speaker MP Nils Schmid told EURACTIV, but stressed that “we don’t have any interest in a further escalation and want to continue the close collaboration with the USA and Australia.”

After Australia scrapped the €56 billion submarine deal, France reacted fiercely and recalled its ambassadors to Washington and Canberra in an unprecedented protest.

“It’s not just a Franco-Australian affair, but a rupture of trust in alliances,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Ouest-France in an interview. “It calls for serious reflection about the very concept of what we do with alliances,” he added.

France has already managed to gain the backing of the European Union in its dispute with the USA.

“One of our member states has been treated in a way that is not acceptable, so we need to know what happened and why,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in France’s defence.

The EU is also currently assessing whether to postpone the USA-EU Trade and Tech Council, previously hailed by European and American policymakers as a flagship initiative to foster cooperation across the Atlantic.

EU ambassadors have already postponed preparations for the Council, which was set to be inaugurated on 29 September.

However, the member states are more hesitant to rally behind France. Germany, Austria, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Denmark oppose the idea of postponing the Trade and Tech Council, a source familiar with the matter told EURACTIV.

Denmark has decided to side with the USA in the dispute, with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen stating that she “doesn’t understand” the fierce reactions from Brussels and Paris.

Germany, however, has decided to adopt a more conciliatory approach.

While its economy ministry told EURACTIV that the decision to postpone or terminate the Trade and Tech Council meeting is solely “up to the European Commission,” MP and the CDU’s foreign policy spokesperson, Jürgen Hardt, warned that the potential postponement of the Trade and Tech Council would be a “tough signal” that would hamper transatlantic relations.

“Free trade is especially essential between partners like the USA and the EU, who share the same values, to tackle the challenges the West is currently facing,” Hardt told EURACTIV.

Hardt also stressed that it is now essential that the crisis between France and the USA is resolved as soon as possible.

“As a reliable partner of both countries, Germany should act as a mediator between the two,” Hardt added.

However, it already seems like tensions could soon ease with French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden agreeing in a phone call on Wednesday evening to launch in-depth consultations. Macron also said that the recalled French ambassador would return to Washington in the coming week.

(Oliver Noyan  | EURACTIV.de)

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