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Assessing the Pacific Islands Forum Outcomes For French Polynesia

French Polynesia's Vice President, Edouard Fritch. (Photo courtesy of French Polynesian Assembly.)

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Virginie Ribadeau Dumas, in Wellington.

The Pacific Islands Forum is over but what were the key points and outcomes for French Polynesia. French Polynesia has had associate member state status since 2006 and it was hoping to have full membership observed in the near future.

But that goal was not to be realised this year at the 2010 Pacific Islands Forum, where the outcomes were mixed for French Polynesia.

There was frustration due to its associate member status being maintained, and enthusiasm since Forum leaders praised the French territory’s efforts to be fully recognised in the PIF.

As an associate member, French Polynesia could not take part to the leaders’ meeting. Its vice president Edouard Fritch considers this a “regrettable isolation”.

In a press release he explained that as member associate, French Polynesia can give talks and exchange views with its Pacific neighbours. But the vice-president notes the limitations of French Polynesia’s status: “We are present, we talk about French Polynesia, about the relations we have, but we do not have the chance to directly discuss with Pacific leaders in plenary assembly”.

Vice president Fritch believes French Polynesia should not be discriminated against even though it has not achieved independence from France. As an associate member, he believes French Polynesia should be permitted to be present for talks that also concern the territory.

The Rocklands Lodge & Hostel was purchased five years ago for US$5.8 million, under a pro-independence government led by Oscar Temaru (pictured above). Photo: Jason Brown, Avaiki Nius

That view is not shared by all who represent French Polynesia’s interests. Fritch’s political rival, pro-independent leader, and Polynesian Assembly president, Oscar Temaru, does not share.

Temaru was also present in Vanuatu to promote his cause: to put down the French territory on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, a list of countries that, according to the United Nations, are non-decolonized.

A fight has been shaping on the sidelines of the Forum between the two prominent leaders via press communiqués.

If Temaru was seeking official support from PIF leaders to aid his ambition to have French Polynesia added to the UN list of Non-Self-Governing Territories – he did not get it. When the Pacific Islands Forum leaders communique was release, it did not note nor mention the pro-independence move to achieve registered independent status.

Temaru did not make comment while in Vanuatu. But his party explained in a press release that “he will speak to the press on his return to French Polynesia, stating who he met and why he remained silent at the Forum.”

The Pacific Islands Forum communique did state however: “Leaders welcomed the continuing interest of French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna to deepen their engagement with the Forum.”

Fritch was quick to claim recognition for his efforts. In a press release, he stated that “contrary to Oscar Termaru, Edouard Fritch has made public his wish that French Polynesia be better integrated in the Forum while preserving its status of member associate. And its request has been acknowledge since it has been mentionned at paragraph 72 of the PIF’s final communiqué.”

He added: “This is the first time French Polynesia has been mentioned in a final communiqué by the Forum.”

Assessing the PIF’s Outcomes For New Caledonia

The 2010 Pacific Islands Forum seemed to have proven successful for the New Caledonian Government in its step toward a deeper integration in the Pacific region.

New Caledonia has been an associate member of the PIF since 2006. In a press statement the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat noted New Caledonia intention to progress its status from an associate member state, to full member.

“The [2010] Forum has been an occasion for New Caledonia to carry on its explanation campaign with all the leaders of the organization.”

It added: “Leaders noted with appreciation the interest expressed by the President of the Government of New Caledonia in eventual full membership of the Forum and requested the Forum Secretariat to explore further with New Caledonia ways in which its engagement and role within the Forum could be expanded and enhanced.”

As stated in the PIF’s final conclusions, the Pacific leaders “encouraged New Caledonia to continue their [sic] dialogue with France in order to be able to satisfy the full membership requirements of the Forum”.

Virginie Ribadeau Dumas is conducting an internship at Scoop Media (NZ), and is a French student majoring in international affairs journalism at the Political Sciences Institute of Rennes (France).