PAGO PAGO (RNZ Pacific/Pacnews) — New Caledonia’s pro-France politicians have largely welcomed the appointment of Marie Guévenoux, 47, as the new “delegate minister” for overseas.
New Caledonia’s two MPs at the French National Assembly, Nicolas Metzdorf and Philippe Dunoyer, have clearly indicated Gérald Darmanin remained the key focal point in the French government, despite the appointment of Guévenoux.
“There is no particular worry, because at the end of the day, it is Gérald Darmanin who is dealing with (New Caledonia) matters,” Metzdorf (who belongs to French President Macron’s Renaissance party and locally leads the Générations NC party) told Nouvelle-Calédonie la 1ère.
She will have to familiarise herself with New Caledonia’s issues, especially when it comes to this planned Constitutional reform.”
He also welcomed the fact that the new assistant minister is politically close to Darmanin.
Dunoyer, a member of the moderate pro-French party Calédonie Ensemble, expressed very similar views: “I’m sure she will quickly get used to our issues, even if Gérald Darmanin remains the pilot when it comes to New Caledonia”, he said.
Pro-independence parties have yet to react to the new French appointment.
Thursday last week, France’s new Prime minister Gabriel Attal made a series of appointments in his government, mostly concerning assistant ministers.
Guévenoux, regarded as close to French President Emmanuel Macron, as an MP for Macron’s Renaissance party, is a member of the Law Commission within the French National Assembly.
She remains firmly placed under the authority of State Minister for Home Affairs and Overseas Darmanin, who over the past two years, has dealt directly with the most pressing French Pacific issues, including ongoing talks on New Caledonia’s political future.
During a brief handover ceremony last Friday, Guévenoux took over from outgoing Philippe Vigier, who had been appointed to the position only five months ago.
Vigier, during his five-month tenure, has not dealt directly with French Pacific issues.
By contrast, as senior minister in charge of Home Affairs and Overseas, Darmanin has visited New Caledonia half a dozen times over the past twelve months in an attempt to bring about conclusive and inclusive talks between local political parties in order to reach an agreement over New Caledonia’s political future.
Another trip to Nouméa this month
He confirmed last week that he will travel there once again during the course of February as France is planning to table a Constitutional amendment regarding New Caledonia’s electoral roll eligibility conditions.
The new trip, scheduled to take place before the end of the month, would involve the new “delegate” minister, but also French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, who will provide details for the construction of a new detention centre in the suburbs of the capital Nouméa.
Outside the Pacific, politicians from France’s other parts of its Overseas ensemble have expressed lukewarm sentiments at the new appointment, saying this once again demonstrated “a lack of consideration” from Paris regarding French Overseas territories’ specific issues.
Guévenoux, who over the past twenty five years has built an experience at positions within French ministries of cooperation, development, environment and education, describes herself as a “woman of dialogue” who is “ready to listen”.