Forum to ponder technicalities of Tahiti membership
French Polynesia's bid to be a member of the Pacific Islands Forum faces a number of technical issues that would need to be addressed, according to a pacific academic.
An academic says a number of technical issues would need to be addressed before French Polynesia could become a member of the Pacific Islands Forum.
A Forum mission was recently in French Polynesia to assess its membership bid.
The French territory currently has observer status at the Forum.
The director of Massey University's Pasifika Centre, Malakai Koloamatangi spoke about the bid to Don Wiseman who began by asking if a non-self-governing territory could be a member of the Forum:
MALAKAI KOLOAMATANGI: Theoretically, it should not be possible just because of the fact that the Forum was made up of the independent Pacific plus New Zealand and Australia, but I do know that there is the will perhaps on both sides. For example the Forum was to engage with the French territories, and also from the French and especially the European Union side, wants the French territories to be engaged with their neighbours in the Pacific. So there seems to be the will. Now whether in the technical sense that is possible is a question that has to be answered. Perhaps a different type of membership could be looked at.
DON WISEMAN: Associate membership, this is something that already exists of course, because Tokelau is an associate member so that might work. But I guess the thing here is France has been adamant that it doesn't want French Polynesia going on the list of non self-governing territories. It's protective of French Polynesia still isn't it?
MK: That's right, the French have been dragging their feet with this issue, for quite some time. Although there is a desire perhaps by people within the French territories for greater independence, for greater autonomy from France. The French doesn't see any sense in talking about independence in that way because they have recognised the French territories as being a part of France. It's nonsensical to them to talk about independence. The other thing, in terms of the technical stuff, because the French territory status is not clear, it's problematic for developmental reasons, for example the territories are not seen as being developing regions because they are part of France. Whereas the Pacific is seen as a developing part of the world, so it gets aid, it gets concessions and so forth. So how do you treat the French territories, what category do you place the territories, in terms of aid, for example from the EU. What does the EU, will it treat French territories like it treats Tokelau or Niue or not?
DW: You don't think there's any perhaps looking to the future, the possibility of full independence later and Paris considering issues like that?
MK: The simple answer is no, unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the way that the French conceptualise it's territories, I don't see that in the horizon. But in terms of the membership of the French territories in the Forum, I think they ought to find a way forward because that's with trade and so on, that will benefit both the territories and also the neighbouring islands.
DW: Let's say that the first of the French territories then becomes an associate member at least, we would expect a lot of the American territories to then seek membership as well wouldn't we?
MK: Yes it would become a domino effect where French Polynesia, then New Caledonia perhaps and then we'd look north to the American territories. And what about American Samoa for example? Again, I don't think it will make sense to the Americans, for us to talk about American Samoa being independent. But those aren't the kinds of issues that we have to think about.
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