The French ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu says his country shares the ambition for regional integration in the Pacific.
As major powers in China and the United States clash for influence in the region, François-Xavier Léger said working together cooperatively was “part of France‘s DNA and diplomacy”.
Speaking at the July 14 233rd anniversary celebrations in Suva on Monday evening, Léger stressed that France was integrated into the South Pacific through its overseas territories in New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and futuna.
He said that because of this presence, the French government and its military were well placed to respond to a number of common challenges facing his country and the region, including the provision of disaster support and the fight against climate change.
“We do this in partnership with Australia and New Zealand, under the FRANZ mechanism [an agreement between France Australia and New Zealand to provide humanitarian assistance to Pacific nations in times disasters].”
“We are also doing this with the support of the European Union,” Léger told high-level guests at the event.
He said that due to France’s proximity to the member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum, through its overseas territories in the region, there were also opportunities for France to develop trade. and exchanges of people between Pacific island countries and the three French territories.
“We can offer French solutions to the needs expressed by our partners, particularly in the field of energy transition. We can collaborate through networks of universities and researchers, on the environment, or on food.”
Last May, France deployed the Gondwana 2 landing, the second international submarine cable over 1,500 km long, between New Caledonia and Fiji.
Léger said that through such initiatives, France and the Pacific “gain in security, attractiveness, competitiveness and sovereignty”.
But while Paris wants to remain present in the region, the independence president of New Caledonia, Louis Mapou, believes that “the future of New Caledonia is not in Europe”, while the efforts of self-determination continue .
“There is no doubt that France needs New Caledonia and French Polynesia to defend its Indo-Pacific strategy in the Pacific, against the other powers concerned,” Mapou told Reuters.
“It’s not our plan, our plan is to engage more in the region.”