France recalls ambassadors to US, Australia over submarine spat

Decision 'is justified by the exceptional gravity' of the situation, says foreign minister.

France recalls ambassadors to US, Australia over submarine spat

PARIS — France has recalled its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia in response to the strategic partnership with the U.K. that displaced a multibillion-euro submarine contract Paris had signed with Canberra.

“At the request of the President of the Republic, I have decided to immediately recall for consultations our ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement. 

“This exceptional decision is justified by the exceptional gravity of the announcements made on September 15 by Australia and the United States,” the statement continued.

The U.S., Australia and U.K. announced on Wednesday a landmark pact that would allow cooperation on military technology but that also saw Australia ditch a deal worth more than €50 billion with France’s Naval Group to build a fleet of submarines, a move Le Drian called a “stab in the back.”

Even though it was Australia that canceled the contract, the bulk of French ire was squarely directed at the U.S.

“The American choice to push aside a European ally and partner like France … shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret,” according to a joint statement from Defense Minister Florence Parly and Le Drian that was France’s first official response to the announcement.

The French embassy in Washington also canceled in protest a reception it was hosting on Friday to mark the 240th anniversary of the Battle of the Chesapeake, which commemorates a French naval victory over a British fleet during the American Revolution.

Le Drian will be in New York Monday to participate in the United Nations General Assembly. 

Source : Politico EU More   

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Brussels keeps mask mandate as rest of Belgium relaxes rules

Belgian PM Alexander De Croo outlines new coronavirus measures.

Brussels keeps mask mandate as rest of Belgium relaxes rules

Belgium will drop its requirement for face masks to be worn in shops, restaurants and at work from October 1. But in Brussels, the mandate is staying, the country’s leaders announced on Friday.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said that in Belgium it will remain compulsory to wear a mask on public transport, as well as in the health care sector. The announcement came with the proviso that regions can decide to implement more stringent requirements, which Brussels has indicated it will be doing.

Brussels government chief Rudi Vervoort explained that due to the epidemiological situation and the vaccination rate in Brussels, the mask mandate needed to stay.

Earlier this month, the Brussels government announced it would be mandating coronavirus passports in bars, restaurants, sports clubs and at events, given the lower rate of vaccination in the region. 

Explaining the dropping of the mask mandate for the rest of the country, De Croo said that this didn’t mean that masks were no longer useful. “There are places where it remains useful, for example in places where ventilation is difficult and where many people are close to each other, such as on public transport,” he said.

De Croo also said that nightclubs would reopen as of October 1, provided immunity certificates are used.

From October 1 it will be mandatory to present an immunity certificate at indoor events of more than 500 people and outdoor events of more than 750 people. 

In recent days, several Flemish politicians have called for the measures to be relaxed in the north of the country, taking into account the region’s high vaccination rate. On the other side of the language border, there is more caution. In Flanders and Wallonia, 91 percent and 79 percent of adults have been vaccinated, respectively, while in Brussels, 64 percent of adults have been fully jabbed. 

Some Belgian experts advising the government cautioned against removing the mask obligation too quickly, just before fall and winter, when there is fear that coronavirus case numbers could rise. 

Ashleigh Furlong contributed reporting.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharma and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the health care policy agenda. Email for a complimentary trial. 

Source : Politico EU More   

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