France and Vanuatu
France maintains sustained political dialogue with Vanuatu which draws in particular on the island’s geographical proximity to New Caledonia. The former Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Mr Joe Natuman, took part in the high-level dialogue on climate change chaired by the President of the Republic at the headquarters of the Secretariat of the South Pacific Commission (SPC) on 19 November 2014, and met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development on the sidelines of the event. His predecessor, Mr Moana Carcasses Kalosil, met with the French Prime Minister and Minister Delegate for Development, attached to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, during his visit to Paris in October 2013.
France’s humanitarian response following Cyclone Pam arrived fast, the day after the storm, in the form of a first reconnaissance flight and the sending of an assessment team to Port Vila, accompanied by humanitarian freight and communications equipment. France provided humanitarian assistance worth more than €2 million to Vanuatu. More than 300 French military personnel and emergency responders were involved in this humanitarian operation between 15 March and 5 April 2015. More than 114 tonnes of humanitarian freight were delivered by French navy vessels and their helicopters, as well as Air Force CASA cargo planes. The latter carried out more than 30 transport and medical evacuation missions from Tanna to the hospital in Port Vila. The French communities of New Caledonia and French Polynesia both contributed significantly to the humanitarian assistance and its transport. The Airbus Helicopters foundation provided two aircraft to the rescue teams in Port Vila and the EDF foundation, supported by the New Caledonian Armed Forces (FANC), helped restore part of the electricity grid. Humanitarian associations were also mobilized, including the French Red Cross, CARE, Électriciens sans frontières, Doctors of the World and Doctors Without Borders, and Télécoms sans frontières.
The former Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Mr Joe Natuman, took part in the high-level dialogue on climate change chaired by the President of the Republic at the headquarters of the Secretariat of the South Pacific Commission (SPC) on 19 November 2014, and met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development on the sidelines of the event. His predecessor, Mr Moana Carcasses Kalosil, met with the French Prime Minister and Minister Delegate for Development, attached to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, during his visit to Paris in October 2013. Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman met with the French Minister for Overseas France, Ms Marie-Luce Penchard, in Nouméa during the OCT-EU Forum in early March 2011. He also met with the President of the Government of New Caledonia, Mr Harold Martin, and the High Commissioner of the Republic during a stopover in Nouméa on 28 May 2012.
The Vanuatu Minister of Foreign Affairs met with Alain Juppé, Ministre d’État, French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, in Paris on 17 April 2012.
On the French side, Mr Pascal Vittori, member of the New Caledonian Government, visited Port Vila in April 2009. A joint visit by the High Commissioner of the Republic in New Caledonia and the High Commander of the Armed Forces of New Caledonia (FANC) took place in Vanuatu in November 2009.
A French Senate delegation, led by Mr Jean-Pierre Demerliat, Chair of the interparliamentary France-Vanuatu-Pacific Islands friendship group, visited Vanuatu from 15 to 18 September 2009. A French delegation led by Mr Pierre Frogier, National Assembly Deputy and President of the South Province of New Caledonia, took part in the ceremonies for the 30ᵗʰ anniversary of Vanuatu’s independence, in Port Vila on 30 July 2010. Delegations from New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna also attended.
In August 2011, the Minister for Transport, Mr Thierry Mariani, made a two-day visit to Port Vila, where he met with leaders and members of the French community in the archipelago. This ministerial visit, the first since that of Mr Dominique Perben in 1993, helped reaffirm the strong ties between France and Vanuatu. Mr Harold Martin, President of the Government of New Caledonia, visited Port Vila on 20 and 21 July 2013 for the meeting of the France-New Caledonia-Vanuatu joint commission.
While trade between France and Vanuatu remains limited (€8 million in 2013) because of the size of the market, France remains one of the leading foreign investors (FDI stock of €26 million as of late 2011), behind Australia, Japan and New Zealand. Investments have been made in sectors including agrifood, banking, water and sanitation, energy distribution and real estate. France, excluding its Pacific territories, is Vanuatu’s seventh-largest supplier. Mainland France is, however, the leading non-neighbouring supplier.
France’s cooperation with Vanuatu is part of the strategy to ensure the integration of France’s Pacific communities in their regional environment.
More generally, it seeks to support Vanuatu’s development and promote the development of Francophonie. This approach, which began when the archipelago became independent, has diversified over the years, and continues in close collaboration with Vanuatu’s other partners. The key sectors of our cooperation traditionally include education (grants, support for teaching establishments) and health (modernization of establishments).
Our cooperation is supported by several complementary instruments:
• The Agence française de développement (AFD, French Development Agency): in recent years, it has acted as an operator for projects financed by France in the field of infrastructure: airport renovation (Malakula Island, Aoba Island, Pentecost Island, Tanna) and medical facilities (Luganville Hospital on Espiritu Santo, inaugurated in February 2010, and the nursing college). Tanna Airport, which was renovated and extended using AFD finance, was connected to the electricity grid by the company UNELCO, a subsidiary of Engie. This connection was opened on 31 May 2012, in the presence of the Prime Minister of Vanuatu, Mr Sato Kilman. It should eventually allow night landings.
• The Pacific Fund. This fund can be used for economic, social and cultural cooperation involving a French Pacific community. Vanuatu is the leading beneficiary of the Pacific Fund.
• The bilateral cooperation budget of the French Embassy in Port Vila. This budget is focused on projects in the sectors of education, training for elites, and cultural outreach.
As regards Francophonie, bilingualism is acknowledged by the Vanuatu Constitution. French and English are the teaching languages in Vanuatu and the country seeks to implement true bilingualism in its educational system. The French school (lycée) in Port Vila was named after the author J.M.G. Le Clézio in 2011, and is an integral part of the French educational establishments network. A bachelor’s degree in economic and social administration in French was launched in Port Vila in April 2013, in collaboration with the University Agency for Francophonie (AUF) and the University of Toulouse I Capitole. The network of Alliance française branches has 2000 members. Approximately 35% of Vanuatu’s population is French-speaking.
Relations between New Caledonia and Vanuatu
Relations between New Caledonia and Vanuatu are governed by a convention on cooperation between France, New Caledonia and Vanuatu, which was concluded in 2002 and renewed in 2006. It was renewed again on 16 February 2010 for the 2010-2014 period. This text focuses on the following priorities: economic development, education, youth employment, research and technology transfer, culture and sport, health, good governance and decentralized cooperation. It is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (Pacific Fund) and the Government of New Caledonia. The annual meeting of the France-New Caledonia-Vanuatu joint commission established by the convention decides which projects are implemented. During its July 2013 meeting, it selected 9 projects worth €304,000.
Bilateral military cooperation
In the area of defence, cooperation is carried out by the New Caledonian Armed Forces (FANC) with Vanuatu, focusing on the surveillance of Vanuatu’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEC), training and civil assistance, through “Castor” operations to restore public buildings. A France-Vanuatu agreement on search and rescue at sea was signed in September 2004. An agreement in the form of an exchange of letters on the status of French forces staying in the territory of Vanuatu was signed in Port Vila on 6 and 7 July 2011, and published in the French Official journal of 30 November 2011.
Updated: 16 January 2016