Last week, foreign ministers from the sixteen members of the Pacific Islands Forum met in Fiji, to get set for the organization's summit next month in the Federated States of Micronesia. Climate change and disaster management headed the official agenda, but, as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific News minute, another long standing issue has reportedly been resolved.
According to reports in Tahiti, the foreign ministers agreed to support full membership in the organization for French Polynesia and New Caledonia. Up till now, the Pacific Islands Forum has only allowed fully independent nations to join as part of its long-standing commitment to decolonization.
France has been pushing for full membership for more than ten years, in an effort to legitimize its sovereignty. It's required to hold a referendum on independence in New Caledonia by 2018, but hopes to win that vote, and, as far as Paris is concerned, independence is off the table for French Polynesia. Last November, President Francois Hollande addressed the France-Oceanic summit in Paris: "France is fully a country of the Pacific," he said "we share the life and future of the big Pacific family." And if the Pacific Islands Forum should accept New Caledonia and French Polynesia, Hollande said France would reopen its aid program for the region.
The two territories are currently associate members of the Forum...a third French territory, tiny Wallis and Futuna, has observer status. Australia has long supported The French position...in May, on a visit to Wellington; Prime Minister Manuel Valls won New Zealand's support.
If the Membership vote goes as planned next month, it will raise questions, about American Territories...Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Marianas ...all currently observers in the Pacific Islands Forum.