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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, June 2) – French Polynesia Vice President Jacqui Drollet threatened Thursday a Temaru government boycott of a June 26 France-Oceania Summit in Paris if France does not abolish an airport tax that took effect in Tahiti Thursday.

That was the message Drollet gave to the French state when he met in Paris Thursday with French Overseas Minister François Baroin.

The scheduled summit, involving 16 heads of government from the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum, is to be the second to be held by French President Jacques Chirac. The first was held in Tahiti in July 2003 during Chirac's official visit to French Polynesia.

The French state-imposed airport tax involves 1,193.3 French Pacific francs (US$13) for each passenger boarding an international flight out of the Tahiti-Faa'a International Airport. There is also a tax of 179 French Pacific francs (US$2) per passenger boarding an inter-island flight and a tax of 59.67 French Pacific francs (66 US cents) for each passenger boarding a flight to Moorea.

Drollet described the airport tax as "a clear intrusion" of the state in French Polynesia's taxation powers, according to a communiqué from Drollet following his meeting with Baroin. "We can't accept it," Drollet said of the tax.

"I asked Mr. Baroin to make a gesture, which would be only a request for the suspension of the application of this tax before the Council of State," which is France's administrative supreme court. "That would allow us to analyze together whether or not there is a real interference in" French Polynesia's taxation powers, Drollet said.

But his communiqué noted that the Temaru government had sent a message to President Chirac, telling him everything that Tahiti's government thought about the tax. Drollet also said through the communiqué that the Temaru government had filed a motion before the Council of State seeking to have the airport tax annulled.

The French daily newspaper Le Monde immediately reported Drollet's announcement of the Temaru government's threatened boycott of the June summit. The French newspaper reported that Drollet noted the French Polynesia Assembly had twice voted unanimously against the airport tax.

The airport was one of several subjects that Drollet discussed Thursday with Baroin, who made his first visit to Tahiti as overseas minister at the beginning of April.

They also discussed what Drollet's communiqué described as a nine billion French Pacific franc (US$100 million) "debt" that the state has with French Polynesia in terms of transfers of funds that have not been made. That includes 2.8 billion French Pacific francs (US$31 million) that the state owes in transfers to French Polynesia's 48 communes, Drollet said.

The Temaru government's vice president said Baroin told him he would do his utmost to settle the matter. But Drollet said he was hoping to have a certain number of positive responses between now and July.

Drollet said in his communiqué that he told Baroin that the French state is behind in making transfers to the tune of some six billion French Pacific francs (US$66.6 million) for financial commitments made between 2003 and 2006. Drollet described that amount of owed transfers as "an important sum for an economy like ours. And so I asked that the state respect its engagements."

Another subject Drollet brought up involved honeymoon tourism, a subject he said he first raised with Baroin at the beginning of this year. The Temaru government wants to allow Japanese tourists to get legally married in Tahiti with a minimum waiting period. However, the French justice minister and Baroin later signed a decree rejecting French Polynesia's proposed legislation.

Baroin told Drollet Thursday that they would have to see the justice minister together

June 5, 2006

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