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France and Its Territorial Disputes

Introduction to the Country

France is a country in Western Europe, and it is one of the wealthiest and most populated nations in the region, as well as one of the most influential nations in the entire world. The population of France exceeds 63 million living in a territory of 210,026 square miles, which includes the overseas departments as well. France is one of the most influential countries in global politics, as evidenced by its position in many international organizations, most notably – its status as the permanent member of the UN Security Council. With its GDP of $2,856 trillion as well as the authority in global governance, France is one of the strongest European countries with a solid global presence as well.

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Sovereignty and Territorial Disputes

As of now, France has several ongoing sovereignty disputes, and most of these unfold in the Indian Ocean. To begin with, France and Mauritius alike claim sovereignty over Tromelin Island east of Madagascar. Apart from that, France and the Union of the Comoros contest the sovereignty over Mayotte. Apart from the Indian Ocean, France has several ongoing border disputes in other regions, including Oceania and South America. One of these is the issue of Matthew and Hunter Islands in Oceania. While France de-facto controls the two uninhabited islands, and the French Navy visits them, Vanuatu claims sovereignty over the territories, even though it makes no attempt to occupy them, symbolically or otherwise. Another dispute takes place in South America, where the overseas department of French Guiana has an ongoing border dispute with Suriname. It is easy to note that all these disputes regard the overseas territories acquired through colonization and, as such, represent the legacy of French colonialism.


While the border and sovereignty disputes that France is involved in are numerous and span over multiple regions, none of them represent a serious international issue. The territories contested are, in the vast majority, of the cases, small and often uninhabitable islands of little economic or strategic value. The opposing sides are unwilling to engage in any dangerous confrontation over these disputes – a fitting example is Vanuatu refusing to occupy Matthew and Hunter Islands even symbolically, much less in earnest. Under these conditions, maintaining the disputes and supporting claims becomes an issue of prestige rather than anything else. The probability of escalation is very low, and one may safely exclude any open conflict or armed struggle from the list of possible scenarios.


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Bouchard, C., Osman, S., & Rafidinarivo, C. (2019). Southwest Indian Ocean islands: identity, development and cooperation. Journal of the Indian Ocean, 15(1), 1-7.

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Hoefte, R., Bishop, M. L. & Clegg, P. (Eds.). (2016). Post-colonial trajectories in the Caribbean: The three Guianas. Routledge.

Mosses, M. (2019). Revisiting the Matthew and Hunter Islands dispute in light of the recent Chagos advisory opinion and some other relevant cases: An evaluation of Vanuatu’s claims relating to the right to self-determination, territorial integrity, unlawful occupation and state responsibility under international law. Netherlands International Law Review, 66, 475–506.

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