French President Emmanuel Macron ends a day of political talks with pro-France and pro-independence parties.

French President Emmanuel Macron ends a day of political talks with pro-France and pro-independence parties.

French President Macron visits Noumea Central Police Station on Thursday, May 23, 2024 – Photo supplied-pool

French President Macron visits the Noumea central police station on Thursday.
Photo: Supplied

Analysis – French President Emmanuel Macron ended a packed day of meetings in New Caledonia with back-to-back sessions that included opposition leaders from the French Pacific territory.

Macron left New Caledonia on Friday morning local time, leaving some members of his entourage in charge of continuing to deal with the still inflamed situation.

After landing there Thursday morning as part of an emergency visit to address the current crisis, the president’s day was busy.

Macron held meeting after meeting with economic actors, as New Caledonia’s economy faced the bleakest situation in its history, after 11 days of riots, fires and looting.

He also held meetings with elected members of the local assembly, as well as mayors.

Later that day, Macron met with police personnel and gendarmes and expressed his gratitude and condolences for the loss of two gendarmes killed during the unrest.

He confirmed that some 3,000 security forces were stationed in New Caledonia and would remain “as long as necessary” to fully restore law and order.

At the end of Thursday, Macron managed to hear opposing views from the antagonistic camps, and divisions were sometimes observed even within each of the blocs.

Urgent economic measures

Paris would create a special “solidarity fund” to help economic recovery, given the “colossal” damage caused by more than a week of fires and looting of businesses: some 400 destroyed at an estimated cost of 1 billion euros ( 1.7 New Zealand dollars). b).

This would include measures such as emergency assistance to pay wages, delay payments and debts, get insurers to act quickly and banks to provide interest-free loans for reconstruction.

Socioeconomic roots of the disorder

Macron also met with groups of young people in New Caledonia who expressed their anguish at the lack of perspective they faced about their future.

Acknowledging that violent unrest and unrest was still continuing in Nouméa, its outskirts and other parts of New Caledonia, Macron called them “multifactorial” and “partly political.”

“They rely on criminals who have sometimes overwhelmed their orders. Then there is this opportunistic crime that has been added. This has crystallized a political disagreement and, let’s face it, this issue of the electoral roll that was taken separately from everything else.”

As one of the main causes of the current situation in New Caledonia, the French president highlighted the social inequalities that “have continued to increase… They are partly fueling the uninhibited racism that has resurfaced in the last eleven days.”

Macron said those politicians, who had recently radicalized their conversations and actions, had an “immense” responsibility.

distressed young people

“The question now is to restore confidence between all stakeholders, political forces, economic forces… and regain confidence in the future.

“We are not starting from a blank page. Our bases are those on which the Noumea and Matignon Agreements (1988 and 1998) were built.

“But it must be admitted that even today the vision of a common destiny… and the rebalancing has not achieved its objective of reducing economic and social inequalities. On the contrary, they have increased,” Macron said.

“Today I have met young people from all walks of life and what caught my attention was that they felt discouraged, scared, sometimes angry and that they needed a vision for the future,” Macron told the media.

“Really now it is the responsibility of all those responsible to build this road.”

CCAT’s “public enemy number one” makes a surprise appearance

Regarding the delicate political chapter, Macron dedicated an important part of his visit to trying to bring together political parties to start talks.

He only achieved this to the extent that he met with pro-independence leaders, even accepting that the controversial CCAT (the so-called “coordination committee for actions on the ground” created at the end of 2023 by the Union Calédonienne, one of the main components of the party pro-independence front), will be able to attend the meeting.

CCAT leader Christian Tein, despite being under house arrest and considered by some to be “public enemy number one”, attended, to the surprise of observers.

Behind closed doors, at the French High Commission in central Noumea, Macron also met with pro-France (loyal) leaders, but due to their divisions, he had to organize two meetings: one with Le Rassemblement and Les Loyalistes, and another with Caledonie. Set.

Macron (right) with the president of New Caledonia, Louis Mapou (left), and the president of Congress, Roch Wamytan (center)

The President of New Caledonia, Louis Mapou (left), and the President of Congress, Roch Wamytan (center), with Emmanuel Macron.
Photo: supplied

But a meeting of all parties proved elusive and did not take place.

Late into the night, Macron held a press conference to announce the content of his exchanges with a wide range of political, but also economic and civil society actors.

Controversial amendment on the electoral roll delayed, but not withdrawn

Delving into the results of the conversations he held with political leaders, Macron stressed that he had “made a very clear commitment to ensure that the controversial reform is not rushed by force and that, in view of the current context, we give a few weeks to allow peace to return and dialogue to resume, with a view to a global agreement.

There is no turning back in the third referendum

“I told them that the State will assume its role of impartiality,” Macron stated, but added that regarding the third self-determination referendum (held in December 2021 and boycotted by the independentists): “I will not return to this one.”

On the basis of the third referendum which was part of three consultations – held in 1998, 2020 and 2021 and which resulted in a majority rejection of New Caledonia’s independence – Macron has consistently considered, since then, that New Caledonia has chosen to remain French .

But according to the 1998 Nouméa Agreement (now almost expired), after those three referendums have been held and if all of them have produced a majority rejecting independence, local political actors have to meet to consider “the situation thus created”.

In this way, the terms of the Agreement encouraged talks that would give rise to the so-called “local agreement”, which would be the embryo of the successor to the 1998 Agreement.

“Political dialogue must be resumed immediately. I have decided to install a mediation and work mission and within a month an update will be made,” Macron said, referring to a “global agreement” of all local parties on the future of New Caledonia. . .

Macron reiterated that he wanted that agreement to be reached, because if it were, it would become part of the French Constitution and would automatically replace the controversial constitutional amendment focused on changes to New Caledonia’s electoral conditions.

For the local agreement to emerge, Macron also appointed a team of negotiators to help.

Renewed call for local and comprehensive agreement

“The objective is to reach this global agreement that covers at least the issue of the electoral roll, but also the organization of power… citizenship, the issue of the self-determination vote, a new social pact and how to address inequalities “he told reporters.

Other pressing short- and long-term economic issues, such as the diversification of the nickel industry, which is going through its worst crisis due to the collapse of global nickel prices (-45 percent in the last 12 months), should also be addressed. of political discussion. talks and be included in the new agreement, which is supposed to succeed the 1998 Noumea Agreement for New Caledonia.

“My wish is also that this (local) agreement is approved by the vote of New Caledonians.”

In the controversial text that still must be ratified by the Congress of the French Parliament (National Assembly and Senate, in joint session with a necessary two-thirds majority), and which is perceived as one of the main causes of the unrest. currently affecting New Caledonia, there are two sections: one is to effectively “unfreeze” New Caledonia’s eligibility conditions for provincial local elections, to allow everyone who resides there for 10 uninterrupted years to cast their vote.

Section two, however, stipulates that if all politicians produce a comprehensive and broader agreement, then the entire amendment is considered null and void, and that the new locally crafted text is translated into law and replaces it.

The French government has sought an inclusive agreement for the past three years, but local parties have so far been unable to reach such a consensus.

Talks have been held, sometimes between pro-independence parties and “loyal” (pro-France) parties, but it has never been possible to get everyone around the same table at the same time, mainly due to internal divisions within each side.

But while evoking New Caledonia’s future political prospects, Macron emphasized that the immediate need was for all political actors to “explicitly call for all blockades to be lifted in the coming hours.”

“As soon as these withdrawals are effective and enforced, the state of emergency will also be lifted,” he said.