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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Dec. 31 ) - The highlight of the Year 2003 in French Polynesia was French President Jacques Chirac’s historic official visit from July 25-28. That visit, Chirac’s first in eight years, was made all the more important and significant by a one-day France-Oceania meeting he hosted on the very last day.

"A faultless performance" was how French Polynesia Government President Gaston Flosse later summarized the manner in which the official Chirac visit "perfectly took place".

Added Flosse: "Before going on vacation to Canada, Jacques Chirac sent me a letter in which he wrote, ‘all went perfectly’, a reference to his Tahiti visit.

The people of French Polynesia reserved a very special welcome for the president of the French Republic and his wife, Bernadette, as they arrived from the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia. The warm welcome continued in typical Polynesian tradition throughout the three-day visit by the Chiracs, who were accompanied by French government Overseas Minister Brigitte Girardin. It was Chirac’s first visit to Tahiti since having been elected president in 1995.

Chirac being a world leader who thrives on mingling with crowds wherever he goes hardly missed the opportunity to shake hand after hand as he enthusiastically plunged into the typically friendly crowds of Tahiti and Her Islands that greeted him everywhere he went.

The French President began his official visit by placing a wreath at the foot of Tahiti’s war memorial in downtown Papeete. During his first speech at the headquarters of the French Polynesia government, Chirac said, "history justifies the perpetuation of French Polynesia’s economic restructuring funds and the statutory evolution underway. France hopes to contribute to the stability and development of the Pacific," he added.

During his visit to the French Polynesia Assembly, President Chirac underlined the particularity of the Polynesian assembly’s feminine majority, "the only assembly of the Republic" with more women councilors than men, he said.

Chirac’s visit focused on three key sectors of French Polynesia’s economy—the Tahitian cultured pearl, tourism and commercial fishing. And as if to emphasize the importance of each sector, he visited the Robert Wan Pearl Museum in Papeete, inaugurated a new cruise ship wharf in Papeete Harbor and visited the crews of commercial tuna boats at Papeete’s fishing port.

The French President traveled to Bora Bora in the Leeward Islands on July 27 for a working meeting with tourism industry officials from Tahiti & Her Islands. He told those officials they could count on the support of the French Republic in helping to further develop tourism, the main ingredient in French Polynesia’s economy.

While on Bora Bora, Chirac also held a working lunch with the mayors of French Polynesia, discussing a reform of the statute covering the territory’s communal government system and the setting up of a communal personnel statute.

Upon returning to the island of Tahiti, Chirac and his wife attended a two-hour, five-act special performance of traditional dancing from each of French Polynesia’s five island groups—the Windward Islands, the Leeward Islands, the Marquesas Islands, the Tuamotu-Gambier Islands and the Austral Islands.

"I’m proud of the face that (French) Polynesia presents," Chirac told an estimated sports stadium crowd of 30,000 people and a live television audience throughout Tahiti & Her Islands.

During the France-Oceania meeting held on the final day of his visit on July 28, Chirac indicated he wanted France’s three South Pacific territories to obtain a role as Paris’ "privileged representatives" in the region. He told the 15 regional delegations attending the meeting that he wanted to double France’s grant to the South Pacific Economic, Social and Cultural Cooperation Fund starting next year.

January 2, 2004



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