French South Pacific policy under Mitterrand (1981-1993)
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The French presence in the South Pacific since 1981 is a topic which has been unevenly treated by accounts both in English and in French. Coverage has been skewed by selective interest in certain controversial issues such as nuclear testing in French Polynesia, the question of whether or not New Caledonia might attain independence, and the Rainbow Warrior bombing. French South Pacific Policy under Mitterrand (1981-1993) offers more dispassionate coverage of the character and implications of the French presence in the region, placing the aforementioned issues within the context of French Government policy. Part 1 examines the administration of the French Pacific Territories since 1981. Similarities and contrasts in the economic, social and political problems confronting New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia are outlined. Particular reference is made to the influence of French party policy on the statute reforms undertaken in these territories, namely the succession of laws which were introduced in New Caledonia, culminating with the promulgation of the Matignon Accords in 1988, and the French Polynesian Internal Autonomy Statute of 1984. Statute reforms were not undertaken in Wallis and Futuna, although party political life was transformed at territorial level. Discussion of the varying fortunes of the three French Pacific Territories is concluded with an overview of their situations in the early 1990s: the prospects for continued peace and cooperation in New Caledonia, the constraints imposed on Wallis and Futuna by its isolation, lack of resources and small size, and the troubles French Polynesia has experienced because of local political instability and the suspension of nuclear testing. Part 2 considers French foreign policy in the South Pacific since 1981. French views on the role the South Pacific plays in the geostrategy of the Fifth Republic are scrutinised to ascertain the motives behind French diplomatic efforts in the zone. This examination leads to coverage of the implications for French diplomacy of nuclear testing in French Polynesia. The challenge to France's sovereignty over its Pacific territories posed by South Pacific Forum campaigning for decolonisation is assessed. So too are French aid and cooperative efforts with regional states, activity which suggests that controversy and confrontation were not all invariably evident in the period under consideration. The work concludes with a view of the interplay between domestic issues in the French Pacific Territories and French regional diplomacy. While much remains to be done, Paris has to an extent succeeded in promoting the integration of the French Pacific, and in improving the Fifth Republic's standing in the region.