Indo-Pacific a priority for France's EU presidency: Minister

JAKARTA • The Indo-Pacific region will be a priority for France when it takes the presidency of the European Union next year, its foreign minister said yesterday during a visit to Indonesia.

Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian said France wants to be the "go-between" for the Indo-Pacific and Europe, and that strategic cooperation is one of its priorities for the presidency of the EU bloc.

His visit comes as France embarks on a charm offensive to boost its relationships in Asia following the loss of a strategic defence deal with Australia in September.

"The heart of this commitment is our vision of an Indo-Pacific that is free and open, based on the rule of law and a respect for the sovereignty of every state," Mr Le Drian told a news conference through an interpreter.

He also said France has agreed to commit €500 million (S$767 million) worth of investment in energy transition projects in Indonesia though he did not provide details.

Mr Le Drian was speaking with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi and earlier met the country's defence minister. He was scheduled to meet President Joko Widodo later in the day.

France has accused Australia of backstabbing after Canberra cancelled a multi-billion-dollar French submarine deal, opting for nuclear-powered submarines to be built with American and British technology instead.

Australia excluded France when it set up a trilateral security alliance known as Aukus with Britain and the United States in September, a pact ostensibly aimed at checking China's military rise in the region.

Until then, France's partnership with Australia dating back to 2016 had been considered the cornerstone of its Indo-Pacific policy.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'Indo-Pacific a priority for France's EU presidency: Minister'. Subscribe