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French overseas territory: New Caledonia crisis: Macron holds back controversial reform

French overseas territory: New Caledonia crisis: Macron holds back controversial reform

Serious unrest is shaking France’s overseas territory of New Caledonia. President Macron is now pressing the pause button on a controversial project – and is making demands.

In view of the serious unrest in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia, French President Emmanuel Macron wants to hold back a controversial reform for the time being. The constitutional amendment planned by Paris was intended to grant thousands of French-born residents of the island group in the South Pacific the right to vote and had sparked protests.

“I have committed myself to ensuring that this reform does not come into force in the current context,” said Macron after lengthy talks with political leaders in the island’s capital Nouméa. They want to give themselves a few weeks so that the situation can calm down and political talks can be resumed. However, the reform is politically legitimate.

Macron called on the political forces on the ground to call for an end to the blockades in the coming hours and days. “The way forward is blocked by the embers.” The current state of emergency should then be lifted and political dialogue should begin again. In a month’s time, he would look at the situation again and make decisions.

New Caledonia is of geopolitical importance for France

At its core, the conflict revolves around the relationship between the archipelago, located about 1,500 kilometers east of Australia, and France. The island group enjoys extensive autonomy. In three referendums in 2018, 2020 and 2021, the residents of the former French colony voted to remain part of France. However, since the last vote, which was boycotted by the separatists, talks on a new status have stalled. This was actually supposed to have been found by last June. For France, New Caledonia is important primarily militarily and geopolitically, as well as because of its large nickel deposits.

Macron now stressed that his aim was to find a comprehensive agreement on the electorate, citizenship, a new social contract, the distribution of power and the economic future. Trust must now be regained between the dialogue partners. There is currently no common vision for the future between loyalists and supporters of independence on the archipelago. The head of state warned: “Our collective responsibility is immense.”

During the riots, which began more than a week ago, numerous shops were destroyed and looted. Nouméa airport remains closed to all commercial flights. France sent additional security forces to the archipelago. They would stay in New Caledonia as long as necessary, said Macron. The situation has now calmed down somewhat. However, the broadcaster 1ère Nouvelle-Calédonie quoted a local politician as saying that the situation could worsen again at any time. “There is indescribable chaos,” he said.

Source: Stern

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