France will be rolling out the red carpet in Paris for a one-day Indo-Pacific forum on Tuesday where foreign ministers from EU member states will meet foreign ministers from across the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions.
It’s the first major event since the EU released its Indo-Pacific strategy last year, and the agenda is set to include security and defense topics, digital and connectivity issues and global challenges such as climate change.
“I think the EU as a whole now recognizes that the Indo-Pacific is important and that we collectively have strong interests in that region,” Christophe Penot, French ambassador to the Indo-Pacific, told DW.
“Whether it’s security challenges, protection of commercial shipping lanes, trade, climate change or protection of biodiversity and oceans — these are major issues for us. What happens in the Indo-Pacific clearly has a strong influence on our future, our prosperity and our security,” Penot said.
India, a pivotal partner
France has made the Indo-Pacific one of the priorities of its current six-month EU presidency. The country is the biggest and most active European player in the region with its overseas territories, military personnel and around 1.5 million French citizens living there.
Ever since Australia, another major Indo-Pacific actor, pulled the plug on a multibillion-dollar submarine deal with France last September and entered a new security alliance with the US and the UK, Paris has been ramping up other geopolitical partnerships in the region.0 seconds of 0 secondsVolume 90% Watch video01:53
New security alliance for Indo-Pacific region
“The loss of the submarine deal forced France to get some clarity and recalibrate its Indo-Pacific policy,” said Antoine Bondaz, a research fellow with the Strategic Research Foundation in Paris. “Australia, along with India and Japan, was one of the three strategic partners with France in the region,” he added.
“But now Australia is out of the picture, at least for the foreseeable future with ties with France at an all-time low. That means today, India is effectively the key partner for France in the Indo-Pacific.”