France defers referendum on new statute for New Caledonia

Jean-Francois Carenco

Plans to hold a referendum in New Caledonia next year on a new statute for the territory are being abandoned.

The French Junior Overseas Minister, Jean-Francois Carenco, told the television station Caledonia that there will be no referendum in July.

Carenco said a vote will happen once everybody is ready, noting that there has been no dialogue for two years to advance matters.

Last December, Paris said a new statute would be drawn up and put to a vote in June after 96% of voters rejected independence from France in the third and last referendum under the 1998 Noumea Accord.

However, the vote was boycotted by the pro-independence camp after France dismissed pleas to postpone it because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Indigenous Kanak population.

The pro-independence parties refuse to recognise the result and reject any discussions about reintegrating New Caledonia into France while insisting that the decolonisation process is yet to be completed.

Until there is a new statute, the institutional framework of the Noumea Accord, with its restricted electoral roll, remains in place.

Carenco is the first French minister to visit New Caledonia since the re-election of President Emmanuel Macron in April.