Palikir, Pohnpei- French Polynesia and New Caledonia are now full-fledged members of The Pacific Islands Forum, opening the organization’s doors to French influence.
New Caledonia President Harold Martin
The addition of French Polynesia and New Caledonia has raised the number of member nations from 16 to 18. The membership expansion was announced in a single-line in the communique issued at the end of the forum, which made no mention of he discussions or criteria reached in accepting the new members.
The forum is supposed to be a group of independent self –governing nations. However, French Polynesia leader Edouard Fritch said “We live next to each other, why not be in the same house?” he said.
French Polynesia President Edouard Fritch.
Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) President and Forum chair Peter Christian said in a press conference after the retreat that there were issues that forum members share with New Caledonia and French Polynesia, including global warming and preservation of fisheries.
“By consensus, there were concerns how we are doing it but at the end of the day doing it the Pacific way, we agreed that French Polynesia and New Caledonia have been knocking on our door many many years,” he said. Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said the decision of the leaders on the expansion of the forum was “a political decision.”
Asked if the leaders will now open its door to other territories, Malielegaoi said, “There are too many but these two are the ones who have long been knocking, knocking, knocking on our doors, others will be looked out when the time is right.”
Palau Minister Billy Kuartei said there was some discussion on the membership but at the end of the day the leaders agreed that the forum aims to be “inclusive” rather than an “elite club.”
The communique called on Pacific states to maintain “a strong voice considering the region’s vulnerabilities to the impact of climate change”.