With positive results, the Australian PM’s visit helped mend the France-Australia relationship, which had been seriously damaged due to their submarine deal.
In their joint declaration following the talks, PM Albanese and President Macron affirmed their commitment to a closer bilateral relationship. The two sides shared a vision for a free, open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific, based on dialogue and joint initiatives with partners throughout the region.
Acknowledging "difficult times" in the two countries relations, President Macron emphasised that the talks marked the readiness to rebuild the trusting partnership between Paris and Canberra.
The warm handshake between the two leaders of Australia and France at the Elysee Palace before their talks as well as the declarations of goodwill show an optimistic signal in the relations between the two countries. Before that, the relationship between France and Australia went through a turbulent period. In September 2021, the sudden issuance of the trilateral security agreement between the US, the UK and Australia, also known as AUKUS, in association with the Indo-Pacific strategy faced fierce opposition from the French government. Of course, Paris cannot avoid feeling left out by its traditional allies.
However, tensions escalated further after Australia announced its cancellation of a contract to buy French submarines in favour of a deal to build nuclear-powered submarines within the framework of a security partnership with the US and the UK. This dealt a heavy blow to France-Australia relations because the cancelled contract is worth tens of billions of US dollars and is of great significance to the French shipbuilder Naval Group. France quickly recalled its ambassador to Australia for consultations.
Sharing strategic common interests in the vast Indo-Pacific region and as long-standing partners, it is inevitable that Australia and France work towards healing the rift. In recent years, France has promoted its Indo-Pacific strategy, with Australia as an important link. Australian Prime Minister Albanese noted that France plays a role as a central power in Europe and a key power in the Pacific. Canberra also confirmed the 830 million AUD compensation for cancelling the contract to buy submarines with Paris.
Before the visit, the officials from the two countries sent positive signals expressing their goodwill to promote relations. Speaking on television, Australian Prime Minister Albanese stressed the need to "restart" relations with France. He said that the compensation that Australia would pay to France is fairness, equality and permission to re-establish better bilateral relations. Meanwhile, according to the Special Envoy of French President and Ambassador for Polar and Maritime Issues Olivier Poivre d'Arvor, the France-Australian friendship has been restored thanks to the moves of the Australian Prime Minister and his government.
Sharing the same views on climate change adaptation is also a factor that helps France and Australia get closer. Prime Minister Albanese has identified the regulation of emissions targets as a priority in the domestic policy of his government. The Australian government announced it will cut carbon emissions by 43% by 2030 from 2005 levels, higher than the 28% set by its predecessor. This new commitment received a standing ovation from French President Macron. "The new Australian position - proactive, ambitious - offers us opportunities to advance together," Macron said.
It is understandable that France and Australia expressed their goodwill to close controversies and tensions to enhance their cooperation and deal with common challenges, especially when the world is going through a period of uncertainty. Prime Minister Albanese’s visit is an opportunity for the two countries to restore trust, make a new beginning and map out a development strategy for a better bilateral relationship in the future.