22 Nov 2023

Pacific is a top priority for France - Véronique Roger-Lacan

5:11 pm on 22 November 2023
This Friday, November 3, the president of the congress, Roch WAMYTAN, received Véronique ROGER-LACAN, French Ambassador for the Pacific and permanent representative of France to the Pacific community for a courtesy visit.

President of the New Caledonia Congress Rock Wamytan, right, receives French Ambassador for the Pacific and permanent representative of France to the Pacific Community, Véronique Roger-Lacan, for a courtesy visit earlier this month. Photo: New Caledonia Congress

France's new ambassador to the Pacific Véronique Roger-Lacan says her focus will be on peace and freedom for the region, but would not comment on independence of the French territories.

Roger-Lacan has spent just under one month in the position and met with various leaders and delegates at the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum leaders gathering in Cook Islands earlier this month.

She told RNZ Pacific independence of French territories was a matter for France's Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin, who is expected to arrive in New Caledonia this week.

Roger-Lacan said her role was to encourage fruitful cooperation, even on divisive matters.

She said one example, was deepsea mining, something France is deeply opposed to but the Cook Islands is exploring.

However, she said she acknowledged the Forum leaders rights to sovereignty and supports more dialogue on the issue.

Deep sea mining

She said she supports a "total ban" on deep sea mining.

She said she spoke with the Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown while in Rarotonga about his ongoing deep sea mining exploration project.

She said she made France's position clear, even attending an anti-deep sea mining event alongside Vanuatu and Palau's representatives while there.

"The reason why we have this position is because we had started some deep sea mining in the 80's...we did some research and it's clear and proved and evidenced that the environment that was destroyed with deep sea mining at the time has not been reconstituted."

She is also encouraging Pacific states to up their commitments to the United Nations.

France will be organising a conference for Pacific Islands Forum member states ahead of the UN Oceans Conference which is to be held in Nice in 2025, Roger-Laclan said.

She hopes Pacific leaders will enhance their commitments to the global biodiversity framework or BBNJ which she hopes to have gained 60 ratifications for by then so that the treaty can go into force.

"Of course, we will not think for the Pacific leaders. We hope that Pacific leaders can take this opportunity on board to have his UN conference and use this opportunity to enhance their own commitment to the UN targets".

On top of that, France wants a legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution and to decarbonise maritime transport and raise awareness around deep sea mining.

Roger-Lacan said one of France's top priorities will be the Pacific.

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