French President Emmanuel Macron is fighting to keep a small island territory seceding from France.
New Caledonia, which is located in the South Pacific, has held multiple referendums on cutting ties with its European mother state, with the last referendum in 2021 being beset with problems.
Despite the controversy, Macron is now insisting that those living on the island abide by the referendum’s result and stay under France’s control.
La Nouvelle-Calédonie est française parce qu'elle a choisi de rester française. pic.twitter.com/QLUgBQMFEk
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) July 26, 2023
“New Caledonia is French because it has chosen to remain French,” he stated while visiting the territory on July 26.
Macron went on to call for dialogue between pro- and anti-independence parties on the island, asking them to engage in a “profound, sincere political exchange”. He urged pro-French parties not to “underestimate the disappointed aspirations” of those who wanted to leave France.
He also promised to bring about major reforms for the island aimed at strengthening inhabitants’ rights as fully-fledged citizens of the French Republic. Macron asked for local politicians to help set the stage for “full and complete citizenship based on a social contract, made up of duties and rights” for the island.
His argument that New Caledonia is French because it “voted to be French” has caused controversy.
While the last independence referendum did see the island vote 97 per cent in favour of remaining linked to France, the result was tainted by pro-independence groups boycotting the poll, observers say.
Two previous independence referendums held there failed by far tighter margins, with a vote in 2018 seeing 47 per cent in favour of independence, while 43 per cent voted in favour in 2020.
New Caledonia is also not the only potential French breakaway region that Macron has been forced to deal with.
Nationalists within Corsica have long been pushing for independence from France, with riots erupting on the Mediterranean island last year over a fatal prison assault on jailed separatist militant Yvan Colonna.