EU foreign ministers will meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Monday to discuss the AUKUS pact that scuppered a submarine deal between France and Australia. “This is the first opportunity for the EU foreign ministers to discuss the implications and consequences of the whole deal,” EU foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano said. He added that the meeting was an opportunity to discuss “not only the issue between France and Australia but the implications of the whole AUKUS alliance”. The meeting was previously scheduled-a usual occurrence for EU countries to coordinate and consult on many topics before their representatives took the stage at the annual UN event. But with Australia, the United States and Britain last week unveiling a new defence pact negotiated secretly over several months, to the detriment of France, the issue has leapt to the top of the agenda. France recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia in a ferocious display of displeasure at not just losing an agreed contract worth more than 30 billion euros ($37 billion) but especially at the “stab in the back” it received from allies. Its minister for Europe, Clement Beaune, has said a trade pact with the EU that Australia has been working towards since 2018 could be affected. Trade negotiators from both sides last met in June and are scheduled to continue their next session in October. EU MULLING ‘IMPACT’: EU partners have thus far not publicly voiced any strong support for France. But the issue is likely to fuel European debate over “strategic autonomy”-a French-led call to build standalone defence and industrial capacities. The idea, however, is viewed with unease by eastern EU member states that do not want to weaken NATO. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is “keeping a close eye on the consequences of this agreement,” her spokesman Eric Mamer said. But the senior officials of her EU executive-which is responsible for negotiating trade deals for the bloc-“want to sit back and reflect calmly on this type of announcement and the impact it might have before we actually respond,” Mamer said. He said they were looking at “what this impact could be on this schedule” of the EU-Australia trade talks. Macron is skipping the UN General Assembly this year, a decision made before the AUKUS row blew up. US President Joe Biden has requested a phone call with him, which Macron’s office said would happen “in the coming days”. The EU’s top foreign policy official Josep Borrell is to chair the meeting of the EU foreign ministers, which was to take place around 6:00 pm in New York (2200 GMT) and last around two hours. Borrell was expected to make some form of statement afterwards. Just before the EU gathering, Borrell was to hold a meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, also attending the UN General Assembly.