21 Dec 2022

France re-sets its relationship with Vanuatu

8:13 pm on 21 December 2022
Waterfront at Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu

Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

France is working to establish stronger diplomatic bonds with Vanuatu as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy.

France's new Ambassador to Vanuatu, Jean-Baptiste Jeangène Vilmer, said Vanuatu is at the heart of this strategy because of its history.

It is the only Pacific state with French as an official language and there is a French community of more than 2000 people.

Vilmer said the proximity of New Caledonia, 500km or an hour's flight away, makes Vanuatu France's closest neighbour.

The new Ambassador said for several reasons they have the opportunity to re-launch the bilateral relationship.

These include the reopening of the borders after a difficult health crisis, the election of a new government in Vanuatu, and his arrival as the new French ambassador.

French Minister for Development, Francophonie and International Partnerships, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, was one of the first ministers to visit the country in 30 years recently.

The Commander of the Armed Forces in New Caledonia also paid his first visit to Port Vila this month.

Within the three French territories of New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Wallis and Futuna, there are 600,000 French citizens.

France has a total of five embassies across the Pacific - Canberra, Wellington, Port Vila, Suva, and Port Moresby.