FRENCH STATE SECRETARY PAUL BRINGS FURTHER SUPPORT TO WALLIS AND FUTUNA

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MATU'UTU, Wallis and Futuna (December 3, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)--French State Secretary for Overseas Territories Christian Paul last Thursday announced renewed economic aid for the tiny French Pacific territory of Wallis and Futuna, west of Samoa.

Some of the assistance will be provided through new European Union support for the territory amounting to US$ 10 million, RFO reports.

"It is my intention that French aid does not weaken," Paul told local officials and traditional chiefs during his tour, which is part of a Pacific trip that earlier included New Caledonia.

The aid assistance includes funding to upgrade the airstrip and school transportation facilities in Vele, Futuna Island.

Paul also announced that construction would begin shortly on a new stadium and Wallis and Futuna training center. Wharves also will be improved.

Still in question however, is the future of the large Wallisian community living in New Caledonia (about 20,000, compared to 15,000 on Wallis and Futuna).

In New Caledonia, the gradual implementation of the territory's autonomy process, as set forth in the Nouméa Accord in 1998, gives priority to New Caledonia citizens for employment. This is a major concern for the Wallisians, who could find themselves without jobs.

Negotiations over the matter continue.

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