Macron to host new Australia PM to reset damaged ties

French President Emmanuel Macron will this week hold talks in Paris with Australia's new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, seeking to repair ties badly damaged by the ditching of a submarine contract, an official said Wednesday.

Macron to host new Australia PM to reset damaged ties
French President Emmanuel Macron (C) and former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (R) during Macron's 2018 visit to Australia (Photo by ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP) / POOL SOLELY FOR BEST IMAGE AND ABACA

Macron is to host Albanese at the Elysee Palace on Friday morning, a French presidential official, who asked not to be named, told AFP on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid.

The talks at the Elysee will be the first such formal bilateral summit between the Australian and French leaders since former Australian prime minister Scott Morrison in September 2021 ripped up a French contract to build a dozen diesel-powered submarines.

The scrapping of the contract led to an unprecedented crisis between Canberra and Paris and such bad blood that outgoing foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian applauded Morrison’s loss in polls to Albanese, which he said “suits me fine”.

Morrison’s actions were marked by “brutality and cynicism, and I would even be tempted to say of unequivocal incompetence”, said Le Drian as he handed over to his successor Catherine Colonna on May 21.

The switch by Canberra came as it entered a new security pact with Britain and the United States. Macron recalled its envoys to both Australia and the United States over the furore.

France was particularly ruffled as it considers itself to be a key Pacific power thanks to overseas territories including New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

It was also stung as Macron had hosted Morrison at the Elysee in June 2021, months before the stunning about-turn, with French officials saying they were given no inkling even in private of what was to come.

Albanese announced earlier this month that French submarine maker Naval Group had agreed to a “fair and an equitable settlement” of 555 million euros (US$584 million) for Australia ending the decade-old multi-billion-dollar submarine contract.

“It is important that that reset occur,” Albanese told national broadcaster ABC in an interview on June 24.

“France, of course, is central to power in Europe but it’s also a key power in the Pacific.”

Morrison’s predecessor as premier, Malcolm Turnbull, said that the visit was a “big opportunity” to help Paris and Canberra get over a “very bad period” when the French government did not even “pick up the phone.”

Albanese “is not Scott Morrison, so that’s a big advantage”, he told French journalists at an event organised by the Institut Montaigne in Paris.

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‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief.