France and Australia intensify strategic cooperation

France-Australia defence cooperation has taken on new meaning with the advent of the Global War on Terror, which has led both countries to participate in coalition missions throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. France’s defence attaché to Australia, Captain Arnaud Bielecki, says there is an evolving partnership between the two countries in strategic and defence cooperation.

“France is a close neighbour of Australia, as the two countries share borders at New Caledonia and Kerguelen Islands,” said Capt Bielecki.

“The 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) helps to develop a bilateral defence relationship between both states, scheduled to be completed later this year with the signing of a Mutual Logistical Support Agreement (MLSA). The SOFA enables the conduct of exercises and missions within the territories of both nations and enshrines permanent military cooperation between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Armed Forces of New Caledonia (FANC). France and Australia have common interests in maintaining the stability of the Pacific island nations, developing their capabilities to manage fisheries, fight against illicit trafficking and protecting Pacific sea lanes.

“The FANC participates in Australian exercises such as Kakadu, Pitch Black and Triton Warrior and survival exercises in tropical areas. The ADF also participates in joint exercises organised by the FANC in New Caledonia. This cooperation aims to strengthen regional security and enhance interoperability between our armed forces. Operational cooperation is organised within the framework of the France, Australia and New Zealand (FRANZ) Agreement, along with Quadrilateral Defence Coordination, in which the FANC and Australia participate with New Zealand and the United States.

“The interventions conducted recently under the FRANZ agreement include assistance missions in Tonga after the tsunami in October 2009, in Papua New Guinea during the cholera epidemic in December 2010, and in Fiji after Cyclone Evan in December 2012.

“In October 2012, the biennial Croix Du Sud (Southern Cross) Exercise brings together more than 1000 participants from 11 countries to train in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. This exercise involved quality training conducted in situations very similar to the ones addressed by the FRANZ agreement. Australia and France also cooperate within various multilateral frameworks, most often with the United States and New Zealand to help develop Pacific Island countries protect their natural resources. For example, the FANC sends patrol aircraft for fisheries surveillance as part of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s KuruKuru operations.

Safeguarding common interests and maintaining regional security are the main areas of cooperation in the Pacific Ocean for the French and Australian defence and security forces. The continuation of FRANZ cooperation, improvement of regional stability, and enhancement of maritime security are priorities for both nations. And enables our forces to strengthen complementarities and inter-operability.”