Macron arrives in unrest-torn New Caledonia

Status: 23.05.2024 07:25 a.m.

France’s overseas territory of New Caledonia has been rocked by serious unrest for around ten days. President Macron has now arrived on the archipelago, where he wants to ensure the return of “peace, tranquility and security”.

French President Emmanuel Macron has arrived in New Caledonia on a visit to mediate in the unrest-torn overseas territory. To this end, he began discussions with various political forces. The president will be accompanied by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu, among others.

“I stand with the people for the return to peace, tranquility and security,” said Macron after landing at the airport in the archipelago 1,500 kilometers east of Australia. “My goal here, together with ministers and the entire government, is to support the people.” He wanted to discuss the future of New Caledonia with all groups.

At least six dead in protests

The riots were sparked by a constitutional reform planned by the government in Paris. This is intended to give thousands of French-born citizens the right to vote and thus more political influence. Supporters of the island group’s independence are resisting this. They fear that the reform will reduce the influence of the indigenous Kanaks, who make up 40 percent of the island’s 270,000 inhabitants.

At least six people were killed in violent protests last week, and there were looting and arson attacks on cars. The French government has deployed 3,000 additional police officers to bring the situation back under control.

Millions in damage to the economy

The police reinforcements in New Caledonia will remain in the country as long as necessary, said Macron. “In the coming hours and days, further massive operations will be planned, if necessary, to fully restore republican order, because there is no other choice.”

Thousands of tourists are stranded because of the unrest. France, Australia and New Zealand have organized special flights to evacuate them. New Caledonia is particularly important to France militarily and geopolitically, as well as because of its large nickel deposits.

According to Macron, his talks will also address the supply bottlenecks as a result of the riots and economic reconstruction. Last week, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry estimated the damage to New Caledonia’s economy at at least 150 million euros.

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