19 Dec 2003

French Senate approves increased autonomy for French Polynesia

11:18 am on 19 December 2003

The French senate has voted in favour of increased autonomy for French Polynesia following a request by the French Polynesian leadership to give the matter urgency.

The text approved in Paris a few hours ago means that French Polynesia will change its status of an overseas territory to a so-called overseas country within the French republic.

The new statute gives the government in Papeete more powers and allows it to change some laws.

The French Polynesian opposition has strongly criticised the process chosen by France and the French Polynesian government, accusing the state of playing with the constitution by refusing to put the matter to a public vote.

In France, the Socialist and Communist party opposed the proposed autonomy statute while the UDF party had vowed to abstain because of the lack of communication on the law project.

The autonomy statute is yet to be approved by the constitutional council which could meet next month.