France to increase engagement in Indo-Pacific in challenging times

The writer says France and the EU remain fully committed to an inclusive approach to the Indo-Pacific that meets the expectations of regional partners.

Christophe Penot

Christophe Penot

The Jakarta Post


Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto (left) meets his French counterpart Florence Parly at the French Defense Ministry in Paris on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. (Courtesy of/Indonesian Embassy in Paris)

June 7, 2022

JAKARTA – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has produced a profound transformation of the strategic environment, undermining international peace and security and trampling on the principles and provisions of the United Nations Charter.

Much attention has been focused on European security, but the war in Ukraine has wider implications, including for the Indo-Pacific. Countries of the region, in particular, have watched with concern how the unfolding Ukraine crisis has intensified bloc competition.

Far from discouraging France and the European Union, the current geopolitical situation should encourage them to increase their Indo-Pacific engagement. Since their inception, the French and European Indo-Pacific strategies have aimed to show that an alternative vision to an increasingly confrontational and polarized environment could prevail in the region: by promoting multilateralism, upholding the rule of law and international norms, supporting an open and fair environment for trade, supporting connectivity, green transition and sustainable development and strengthening the response to global challenges.

These efforts can build on the important yet underestimated role that the EU already plays in the region, as the top investor and development assistance provider as well as one of its biggest trading partners.

The French and European visions show several areas of convergence with the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, particularly the promotion of multilateralism, inclusivity and a rules-based international order. We strongly support ASEAN centrality in our Indo-Pacific strategies.

A clear demonstration of our commitment to the region was the Ministerial Forum for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, held on Feb. 22 under the French EU presidency. It was the first meeting of its kind between the EU and Indo-Pacific countries at this level, bringing together about 60 participants from both sides.

Special attention was given to the participation of ASEAN countries, with Indonesia and Cambodia speaking at the opening plenary session.

France and the EU remain fully committed to an inclusive approach to the Indo-Pacific that meets the expectations of our regional partners. In the coming months, our priority will be to translate our increasing involvement into concrete actions across all areas.

We will support smart investments in quality infrastructure with the Global Gateway initiative. We will step up our long-term engagement in the region to make energy transition and climate resilience a major area of cooperation, particularly through the Green Team Europe Initiative in partnership with ASEAN.

We also have the ambition to become a long-term contributor to regional security, through a meaningful naval presence, expanding available resources to contribute to maritime domain awareness or developing existing security partnerships. France for its part will further strengthen the partnerships it has already forged with Indonesia and other countries in the region.

The strategic partnership that has for the past 10 years united France and Indonesia, a major regional power at the heart of the Indo-Pacific, is progressively deepening through the action plan signed during the visit of the French foreign minister in November 2021. The partnerships cover various components, particularly in the areas of defense, security, environment and energy transition, health as well as in higher education or digital technology.

There are more than 200 French companies well established in Indonesia, employing 50,000 Indonesians, training them and providing technology transfers.

We also held in March of this year the first session of the Franco-Indonesian maritime dialogue, which highlighted the importance of maritime issues for our two countries, be they security, economic or environmental, both regionally and internationally. The Franco-Indonesian political and defense dialogue will become even more dynamic with the launch of joint foreign and defense ministerial meetings in a “2+2” format.

France and Indonesia are also working hand in hand to promote multilateralism and on major global issues (global economic recovery, the fight against terrorism and global inequalities, strengthening resilience against future pandemics, food security, climate challenges and energy transition) at the UN and particularly at the Group of 20 (G20), of which Indonesia holds the presidency this year.

My visit to Jakarta illustrates the vitality of the strategic partnership between two great sovereign nations and their common contribution to an open and stable Indo-Pacific.

scroll to top