French president Emmanuel Macron is set to embark on a significant trip to New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea. The primary purpose of this “historic” visit is to strengthen his Indo-Pacific strategy and reassert France’s position in the area.
The five-day journey of Macron will commence on July 24 in the French archipelago of New Caledonia, followed by visits to Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. Notably, this marks the first occasion where a French president will travel to sovereign nations in the Pacific region, rather than solely visiting French overseas territories.
In the Pacific, France assumes sovereignty for three territories: New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna. In the Indian Ocean, France has sovereignty over the island of Réunion.
Denise Fisher, visiting fellow at the Centre for European Studies at the Australian National University (ANU), said Macron’s visit is “extremely significant” and will focus on the future for New Caledonia after three failed independence referendums, as well as France’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
“It’s extremely significant and all tied up with New Caledonia … the two issues are fundamental for the French, what it does with New Caledonia and in the Indo-Pacific,” she said.
Macron’s visit to the archipelago comes five years after his last trip there, and 19 months after New Caledonian citizens rejected independence in a third and final referendum under the so-called Noumea accords about the island group’s future.
However, support for independence remains high among the indigenous Kanak population and there are ongoing campaigns for self-determination.