14 Mar 2023

Minister invites parties for talks on New Caledonia's status

7:41 pm on 14 March 2023
France's Minister of the Interior and Overseas Gerald Darmanin arrives in Port Vila, Vanuatu with Minister of Foreign affairs Jotham Napat.

France's Minister of the Interior and Overseas Gerald Darmanin arrives in Port Vila, Vanuatu with Minister of Foreign affairs Jotham Napat. Photo: CLOTILDE RICHALET/AFP

New Caledonia's pro- and anti-independence leaders have been invited by the French prime minister for talks in Paris about the territory's future status next month.

The interior minister Gerald Darmanin, during his visit to New Caledonia, said the pro-independence side has confirmed its attendance.

Last October, the pro-independence parties stayed away from talks hosted by French PM Elisabeth Borne, after refusing to accept the December 2021 independence referendum outcome as the legitimate result of the decolonisation process.

Darmanin said it's necessary that the rival sides meet in a formal context.

He has also appealed to both sides to find a compromise.

New Caledonia has been on the UN decolonisation list since 1986, based on the Kanak people's internationally recognised right to self-determination.

While Darmanin has issued the invites he has reiterated that he wants to keep New Caledonia as part of France.

He told La Premiere he is hoping to seal a tri-lateral deal and keep New Caledonia with France.

"We need to escape this state of uncertainty and keep New Caledonia with France because that is what was chosen by New Caledonians. We need to respect the trajectory that was agreed by the Noumea accord with an increasing autonomy to allow an economic development."

Darmanin also said that the New Caledonia's provincial election cannot go ahead with the rolls of 1998.

Under the Noumea Accord, only indigenous Kanaks and those resident for 10 years by 1998 are allowed to vote.

"There is the frozen electoral process, that we can not continue with as the Noumea accord is over. I have mentioned to both pro-independence and anti-independence parties that we will hold the elections in time in May 2024 with an electoral body that will be modified."

Darmanin said a meeting in April or May with all parties would work towards a institutional project for New Caledonia in September to then be modified in the constitution by 2024.

The pro-independence parties have not given an answer about the visit or any future meetings as of yet.

Nothing more for SLN

Darmanin also announced that not a penny more will be given to the SLN company as long as New Caledonia as a whole refused to engage in a new nickel strategy.

The French state has given more than $US2.5 billion worth of loans in the past six years.

The minister has consulted areas in the Northern and Southern regions of the territory.

Both of these regions possess the three nickel mines of territory KNS, SLN (Eramet) and Prony Resources.

Visa agreement with Vanuatu agreed

France has lifted the requirement for Vanuatu passport holders to have a visa to enter New Caledonia.

The change was announced by the French interior minister Gerald Darmanin when he visited the Vanuatu capital on Sunday.

He said the liberalisation has come at the behest of the French president.

The minister said in a next step Paris will lobby the European Union to restore freedom of movement.

The restrictions were imposed because Vanuatu sells its citizenship, which raised concerns in Europe about the identity of the buyers.

Minister meets leaders in Wallis and Futuna

French Overseas Minister Jean-Francois Carenco has been in Wallis and Futuna to discuss issues such as the ageing population, BNP Paribas' banking monopoly and the relationship between France and local institutions.

On his first day, he met with the President of the Territorial Assembly, Munipoese Miliakaaka, and the representative of the President of France in Wallis and Futuna, Herve Jonathan.

He will be on Futuna Island on his final day on Tuesday.

The last visit from a minister was by then Overseas Minister Annick Girardin in 2019.

Carenco was in New Caledonia with Gerald Darmanin, and extended his stay in the Pacific to go to Wallis and Futuna.