French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Port Vila last night, just three days before Vanuatu’s 43rd Independence Anniversary.

President Macron received a grand and gracious welcome at the airport where he was warmly greeted by a delegation led by the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jotham Napat, Malvatumauri and Vaturisu Councils of Chiefs, and Commissioner of Police, Robson Iavro.

The welcoming committee was enriched by traditional Tanna dancers and talented Lycee students, who added youthful exuberance and placed traditional mats for the French President to walk on while being accompanied by their rhythmic clapping. Vanuatu Mobile Force (VMF) officers were also present, performing a guard of honour during the ceremony.

His short visit comes at a crucial time when the South Pacific is witnessing increasing geopolitical interest from China and the United States.

President Macron’s tour commenced in New Caledonia before reaching Vanuatu last night.

Several issues have been raised by national leaders and chiefs in the lead-up to his visit.

Johnny Koanapo, Member of Parliament for Tanna, said President Macron should declare that Mathew and Hunter are an integral part of Vanuatu and direct that processes are done by the two countries to finalise the delimitation of the maritime boundaries.

Secondly, MP Koanapo urged the French President to do more to assist the development of French language in Vanuatu schools.

He said France must be more sincere and draw its weight behind Vanuatu’s efforts to get out of the grey list and black list instigated mostly by the European Union, because France is an integral and a powerful member.
During his stay in Vanuatu, President Macron met with President Nikenike Vurobaravu at the newly renovated State Farea this morning, strengthening bilateral relations and discussing mutual interests. The two leaders displayed a diplomatic and cordial approach.

He will also meet with Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau and will participate in a Wreath-laying ceremony at the War Memorial, alongside PM Kalsakau.

The French President will attend a gathering of the French Community in Vanuatu at Fondation Bastien and a significant highlight of his visit will be at the 7th Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival (MACFEST), which is currently taking place at Saralana Park.

President Macron is set to depart for Papua New Guinea tonight, continuing his diplomatic engagements in the region.