France, through its historical, cultural, territorial and human presence, with a population of more than one million citizens, is an Indian Ocean state. La Réunion and Mayotte, alongside the French Southern and Antarctic Territories (TAAF), contribute to the region’s vitality.
This presence is central to France’s action in the Indo-Pacific, as indicated by President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron during the Choose La Réunion forum on 23 October 20119. The Indo-Pacific is a strategic region where cultural wealth and civilizational diversity are intertwined. For centuries, France has built strong friendship ties with the Indian Ocean rim States, and a shared ocean culture.
The French exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Indian Ocean accounts for more than 10% of the total surface of that ocean, and 20% of France’s total EEZ. The French Armed Forces in the Southern Indian Ocean Zone (FAZSOI) provide a permanent military presence based in La Réunion and Mayotte and conduct sovereignty and regional cooperation missions. In this context, the FAZSOI delivered humanitarian assistance to the populations confronted with cyclone events, such as Idai, which struck Mozambique in March 2019, and in summer 2020 they took part in the regional response to the consequences of the MV Wakashio oil spill in Mauritian waters.
Facing the same challenges, France, alongside its regional partners, carries out multiple actions in various fields, such as maritime safety and security, the blue economy, disaster risk management and the preservation of the marine environment. Our confidence-building bilateral and multilateral dialogues are focused on common solutions and shared benefits.
As a result, regional cooperation in the region was forged naturally, to unite our strengths. France is a fully-fledged member of two regional organizations that bring together the Indian Ocean States: the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). These two regional organizations provide France and the Member States a framework for diversified regional dialogue and cooperation.
For more than 30 years, the IOC has brought together the island States of the southwest Indian Ocean: the Comoros, Mauritius, the Seychelles and France (because of La Réunion).
For more than 20 years, the IORA has associated the neighbouring States of the Indian Ocean, from South Africa to Australia, and France, recognized as an Indian Ocean country. France joined this organization in December 2020.