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Wallis and Futuna comprise of three volcanic tropical islands and a number of tiny islets located northeast of Fiji and west of Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean. The territory is split between two island groups lying about 260km apart.
Wallis and Futuna is an Overseas Territory of France, with the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, as Head of State. Its constitutional status (statut) is set by a law of the French Republic (Law No. 61-814 of 29 July 1961, as amended). Power under the statute is divided between a Territorial Assembly, a Superior Administrator and three 'Circonscriptions', which incorporate the customary structures of Wallis and Futuna's monarchies.
The territorial assembly, comprising 20 elected members, is the deliberative body for most social and economic matters. The Assembly's decisions require the Superior Administrator's approval to become law.
As the representative of the French State, the French Superior Administrator (Préfet) holds executive authority in the territory, except over issues which are traditionally the preserve of customary leaders. He controls the collectivity's budget, administers its services, and is responsible for defence, law, customs, finance, health and education (except primary schooling, a matter conceded to the Catholic church).
The islands' Circonscriptions (Uvea, covering the Island of Wallis, and Alo and Sigave in Futuna) administer their own budgets and have a jurisdiction similar to that of a local council. Since each Circonscription is headed by a king, they are integrated with Wallis and Futuna's customary and monarchical structures and deal also with religious matters and ritual. The kings receive a salary from the French Government. Their customary authority is generally respected. They can be replaced by customary means should they lose the respect and allegiance of their people. They hold authority over land ownership and use. The largest kingdom is Uvea, its king is referred to as Lavelua and is usually referred to as the King of Wallis. Since the abdication of Petelo Vikena and Visesio Moeliku in 2010, there are no incumbents for the positions of Tuiagaifo (King of Alo) and Tuisigave (King of Singave) respectively.
An election for membership of the Territorial Assembly was last held on 1 April 2007. The participation rate was high - some 74 per cent of the 11,165 enrolled voters cast ballots. Representatives of many different candidate groups ('lists') were elected; two of the twenty were women. In December 2010, Siliaki Lauhea took over from Speaker, Victor Brial.
Michel Jeanjean currently holds the office of Superior Administrator (since June 2010). In the French Parliament, Wallis and Futuna is represented in the Senate by UMP Senator Robert Laufoaulu (elected during the French Senate elections in September 2008) and in the National Assembly by Socialist Deputy Albert Likuvalu.
The current King of Wallis, Kapiliele Faupala, was crowned in July 2008, replacing his predecessor Kulimoetoke who died in May 2007 after ruling Wallis since 1959. It was Kulimoetoke who signed a pact with France in 1961 which granted Wallis and Futuna the official status of 'French Overseas Territory'.
The three pillars on which Wallis and Futuna rest are Custom (empowered by monarchy), Catholic Church and the French State. There is little local sentiment in favour of independence from France.
A small, subsistence economy
Local economic activity is essentially limited to traditional subsistence agriculture, fishing and some livestock breeding (mainly pigs). Even so, the territory does not produce enough food to meet local demand - foodstuffs represent around one-third of its imports. Building materials are the other main import. Unemployment is the territory's most pressing economic and social problem, with only an estimated 1,800 of the Territory's 15,000 inhabitants in formal employment (and more than half are in the public sector). Some revenue is provided by remittances from relatives living in New Caledonia, having migrated for work or education.
Financial support from France
Financial support from France
Wallis and Futuna is heavily dependent on financial support (some A$140 million per annum) from France. The French Government directly funds many services (such as health, education and public service salaries) and provides a grant each year to balance the budget. In January 2002, an "economic orientation agreement" set out broad priorities for the future economic development of Wallis and Futuna. In February 2007, the Territory signed with France the latest in a series of five-year 'Development Contracts' (to cover 2007-2011), including funding for youth training, economic development, infrastructure projects, environmental management, improvement of social and health facilities and reinforcement of the Territory's cultural identity. An important feature of the 2007-2011 contract has been the upgrading of the airstrip on the island of Futuna., which has not been fully completed due to a dispute over customary land rights.
In July 2011, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, visited Wallis and Futuna to attend the 50th anniversary of its constitutional statute, in the capital Mata'Utu.
In 1997, Australia's training assistance program was extended to Wallis and Futuna. Australia continues to provide scholarships to applicants from the Territory, as part of its $1 million per annum program of scholarships for students from the French Pacific entities. Since 1999 the scholarships have funded 17 students from Wallis and Futuna. This scholarships program is administered through the Australian Consulate-General in Noumea, which is accredited to Wallis and Futuna.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Australian merchandise exports to Wallis and Futuna in 2009-10 totalled A$5.9 million (principally preserved meat, animal feed and cereal preparations). Australia received A$22,000 in imports from Wallis and Futuna during this period (principally artwork and antiques).
Pacific Community an important point of regional contact
Wallis and Futuna is a member of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/spacific/regional_orgs/pc.html) (SPC), the Pacific Island Development Fund, and the South Pacific Tourism Organisation and is an associate member of the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP). Wallis and Futuna participated in the preparatory meetings of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Convention (WCPFC). In 2006 Wallis and Futuna became a Pacific Islands Forum Observer.
The territory's other regional contacts are minimal, except with the other French entities, New Caledonia and French Polynesia. A framework agreement governing institutional relations between Wallis and Futuna and New Caledonia was signed in December 2003 in France. The agreement commits New Caledonia and France to support the economic development of Wallis and Futuna, particularly regarding access to employment, social services and health arrangements.
Australian passport holders, travelling on holidays or business for stays of up to 90 days, can enter Wallis and Futuna without a visa. Air Calédonie International (Air Calin) runs flights to and from New Caledonia and Fiji twice a week as well as a daily service between Wallis and Futuna Islands.
Further information (in French) on Wallis and Futuna can be obtained from the French Government web site (http://www.outre-mer.gouv.fr) .
Australians travelling to Wallis and Futuna are advised to consult the Smartraveller (http://www.smartraveller.gov.au) travel advice.
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