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Mixed views on French overseas portfolio rejig

Tuesday 5 July 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional

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Mixed views on French overseas portfolio rejig
The Kanak and French flags flying before the third referendum on independence in 2021 Photo: CLOTILDE RICHALET

France's abolition of the status of an overseas minister has received mixed reactions in both France and its overseas territories.

The position was done away with in yesterday's government reshuffle and replaced with a minister delegate, a post given to Jean-Francois Carenco.

He will work alongside the interior minister Gérald Darmanin.

A French Polynesian member of the French National Assembly Moetai Brotherson said the change of of status "sends a bad signal to the overseas territories".

"We remember the way Mr Darmanin when he sent forces to Guadeloupe. We also remember the declarations in New Caledonia", he said.

French National Assembly member, Moetai Brotherson

French National Assembly member, Moetai Brotherson Photo: AFP

Brotherson said the new representatives were unknown to French Polynesia and New Caledonia, adding he would rather have a single minister exercising full power over the overseas territories.

Negative reactions came from the French opposition's Marine Le Pen as well as overseas territory officials.

However, a newly elected New Caledonian French National Assembly member and anti-independence politician Nicolas Metzdorf said he supported this new move.

"An association of overseas territories minister and minister of interior is excellent news for our territories", he said.

"It is a demonstration that Emmanuel Macron considers the overseas territories in the same way as mainland France."

Darmanin and Carenco are set to tour all of the overseas territories, starting with a visit to Reunion on Thursday.

Darmanin said he put the institutional questions of New Caledonia at the top of his priorities.

"I think of the subject of ecology but also institutional questions", he said.

"I think of New Caledonia and the ministry of the interior that has for a long time pondered on the subject with many colleagues there. There is a clear need for two ministers to take care of the overseas territories."

French Minister of Public Action and Accounts, Gerald Darmanin

French Minister of Public Action and Accounts, Gerald Darmanin Photo: AFP

The previous minister Yael Braun-Pivet resigned last month after just one month in office to successfully run for the presidency of the French National Assembly.

Carenco was general-secretary of New Caledonia in 1990 and 1991.

Last December, New Caledonia voted against independence in the third and final referendum under the Noumea Accord.

The vote was boycotted by the pro-independence side which refuses to accept the result as the legitimate outcome for the people to be decolonised.

It regards the rejection of full sovereignty at the ballot box as the Noumea Accord's failure to entice the established French settlers to join it to form a new nation.

However, the anti-independence camp says the three no votes are the democratic expression of the electorate to remain part of France.

Paris wants to draw up a new statute for a New Caledonia within France and put it to a vote in New Caledonia in June.