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By Patrick Decloitre, RNZ French Pacific correspondent

A former New Caledonia-based High Commissioner, Patrice Faure, has been appointed Chief-of-Staff of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Faure is described as an expert on French overseas territories, particularly New Caledonia.

The 56-year-old prefect was France’s representative (High Commissioner) in New Caledonia between 2021 and 2023, a period marked by the covid pandemic, but also the last two of three referendums held over the French Pacific territory’s possible independence.

He was also tasked to organise the first attempts to bring together pro-France and pro-independence political parties to talk and make suggestions on New Caledonia’s political and institutional future.

Faure was replaced in Nouméa by Louis Le Franc in early 2023.

French daily Le Monde suggests that Faure’s appointment would enable French President Macron to have a close adviser on New Caledonia’s developments in the coming months.

While French Home Affairs and Overseas minister Gérald Darmanin has travelled half a dozen times to New Caledonia throughout 2023, France’s efforts to foster bipartisan and simultaneous talks have not yet come to fruition.

UC refuses to join talks
One political party wjich is a member of the pro-independence umbrella (FLNKS) — the Union Calédonienne (UC) — is still refusing to join those talks.

French PM Elisabeth Borne gave New Caledonia’s political parties until 1 July 2024 to come up with collective suggestions on the sensitive subject.

Former French High Commissioner in New Caledonia Patrice Faure
Former High Commissioner in Noumea Patrice Faure . . . previously tasked to organise the first attempts to bring together pro-France and pro-independence political parties to talk about the future. image: The Pacific Journal/RNZ Pacific

Borne also announced over Christmas that her government would table a Constitutional amendment to “unfreeze” New Caledonia’s electoral roll and enable French citizen residing there for over 10 years to vote in local elections.

While Darmanin is scheduled to come back to New Caledonia early in the year, Finance Minister Bruno Lemaire will also visit again to supervise a far-reaching reform plan to solve New Caledonia’s “critical” situation in the nickel mining industry.

In February 2024, Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti will also travel there to provide more details about the construction of a new French-funded prison at an estimated cost of €498 million (NZ$873 million).

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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