On 4 November 2018 an independence referendum will be held in New Caledonia giving its voters the choice of becoming an independent country. Its flag is probably among the prettiest I’ve seen (see photo). OK, but why should we care? After all New Caledonia is a French overseas territory consisting of various islands in the southwest Pacific Ocean.
New Caledonia is also an EU Overseas Country and Territory (LGO) just like Curaçao. If we’ve been paying attention at all, the long held assumption that the LGO status is carved in stone as some local politicians are claiming, is anything but true. Besides New Caledonia, we must face the fact that because of Brexit the status of 11 British OCTs is on the line. See complete list of OCTs below. Greenland, the sole Danish LGO, is gradually assuming control of the handful of policy areas still controlled by Denmark before taking the step towards independence. Other LGOs, including Bonaire, Statia and Saba, but also Falkland Islands may soon become an integral EU territory, the so-called ultra-peripheral regions (UPG) like Guadeloupe and Madeira.
Government authorities in Paris have stated that they will recognise and abide by the results of the referendum next week. Curious is that if voters fail to support independence this time, New Caledonians will have opportunities to vote again in 2020 and 2023.
It’s striking how little attention both government and academia in Willemstad are paying to these types of world developments. Apparently we’re not aware that we can ill afford to be eternal bystanders in a world that’s rapidly changing. Not surprisingly China is paying lots of attention. That Asian giant is even cheering some of these LGOs to drift away from their old colonial masters. This while the Chinese are brutally suppressing any kind of freedom in their own backyard, Tibet and Taiwan. Chinese state-backed firms have been eagerly pouring money into Greenland’s rare-earth mines.
Curaçao needs to be alert. Whatever the result of the independence referendum in New Caledonia.
Anguilla (UK), Aruba (NL), Bermuda (UK), Bonaire (NL), British Antarctic Territory (UK)*, British Indian Ocean Territory (UK)*, British Virgin Islands (UK), Cayman Islands (UK), Curaçao (NL), Falkland Islands (UK), French Polynesia (FR), French Southern -and Antarctic Territories (FR)*, Greenland (DK), Montserrat (UK), New Caledonia (FR), Pitcairn (UK), Saba (NL), Saint Barthelemy (FR), Sint Eustatius (NL), Sint Maarten (NL), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (UK)*, Saint Helena, Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha (UK), St. Pierre and Miquelon (FR), Turks and Caicos Islands (UK), Wallis and Futuna Islands (FR). (*) OCTs without permanent local population.