Florence Parly, French Minister for the Armed Forces, visits Australia [fr]
French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly visited Australia for three days between the 22nd and 24th of September. This visit, Florence Parly’s first stay in Australia, enabled both countries to demonstrate their vast defence cooperation and their ongoing engagement.
Minister Parly began her intense visit in Sydney, where she met with Marise Payne, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs. On her second day in Australia, Minister Parly flew to Adelaide where she had dinner with Australia’s Defence Minister Christopher Pyne and Steve Marshall, Premier of South Australia.
As part of France’s and Australia’s AFiniti initiative, Paris and Canberra hold a Defence Industries Symposium in Adelaide on Monday 24 September. This two-day conference gathered some of Australia’s and France’s most important defence groups, such as for Naval, Thales, Safran or Airbus. Minister Parly firstly met CEOs and representatives of 8 French SMEs, working in maritime security and in Adelaide to develop partnerships with Australian companies.
Christopher Pyne and Florence Parly seized this opportunity to hold a press conference in order to emphasize the deepening of the French-Australian relationship. In fact, Christopher Pyne praised France’s engagement for the security of the Pacific, alongside Australia. Minister Pyne asserted: “we take our role in the South Pacific very seriously and we welcome France as a regional power, with New Caledonia and French Polynesia. We want to see this relationship to continue to strengthen”. Australia welcomes the involvement of nations sharing similar values in its Pacific neighborhood. French Minister for the Armed Forces insisted on this collaboration by explaining that “France and Australia have never been closer. We have a deep relationship rooted in our common values, interests and perception of how the world is going. We are neighbors and allies in the Indo-Pacific, where we ensure maritime security for our allies”.
Florence Parly and Christopher Pyne then inaugurated the French-Australian Defence Industries Symposium with two engaging speeches. Both ministers insisted on key aspects of the French-Australian defence relationship, in particular the submarine project and the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
Minister Pyne described the French-Australian submarine program as “the largest submarine project of its kind in the world” and expressed his delight that Naval Group is providing these submarines, which will be built in Australia. Florence Parly added that the negotiation of the submarine contract is going steadily. Putting the contract in its strategic context, she explained that “Australia’s decision to choose Naval group for its submarines has been a tremendous turning point in our bilateral defence relations”, because the submarine agreement requires a vast political and strategic cooperation. Moreover, Minister Parly described the industrial agreement as “a tremendous industrial challenge to fulfil Australia’s wish: Australia built, Australian jobs, Australian steel”. This program is indeed not an end, but a fresh and bright starting point for a dynamic of fruitful cooperation between France and Australia.
Both Ministers then highlighted France and Australia’s engagement in international security and the protection of the global rule-based order, thanks to their bilateral defence cooperation. Minister Pyne explained that Australia already engages with France in military exercises, especially Croix du Sud which constitutes France’s main defence exercise in the South Pacific. “We always welcome France in our own exercises in the region” added Mr. Pyne. Australia’s Minister for Defence underlined that both Australia and France share a common view on the South China Sea, which is that the South China Sea is international waters and that every nation is entitled to navigate there. In fact, Australia navigates through the South China Sea regularly. “We are looking forward to doing that with France in the next few years. We don’t see why navigating in the South China Sea should be seen by any country as a particular threat to their sovereignty” said Christopher Pyne.
French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly expressed the same perspective on the South China Sea situation. More precisely, she mentioned that “it’s a common concern we have together with Australia. France will not take side on this issue but we want to make sure that the free maritime sailing right is ensured”. She noted that France navigates the South China Sea several times a year and wants to better coordinate with Australia on that matter. “France’s position is very clear, we want China to stick to the international rules but we are very open for dialogue”.
After meeting with Christopher Pyne, Florence Parly met Australia’s Defence Industry Minister Steve Ciobo, with whom she witnessed the signature of a joint venture between a French and an Australian defence companies, Issartel and HI Fraser.
Florence Parly’s visit to Australia demonstrated the depth on France and Australia’s cooperation for the security of the Indo-Pacific region and the world more broadly. It exemplified the fact that France and Australia are not just partners. Both countries share the same vision, cherish the same fundamental values, and face the same uncertainties and dangerous threats. However, France and Australia mainly share unexplored opportunities. As explained by Minister Parly, “the level of our operational interactions is meant to scale up substantially through our strategic partnership”.