At the end of July, France's President Macron visited the French overseas territory of French Polynesia. Although the country has its own constitution and parliament, it still belongs to France. Far away in the Pacific, the French military used the area for testing nuclear bombs. Between 1966 and 1996, 193 nuclear bombs were detonated above and below ground.

Before the first bomb was detonated, the population was promised that this would not be a risk to them. Charles De Gaulle came in person and expressed his "thanks" to the people: "It is dear to my heart to say how much France appreciates the service French Polynesia is rendering us. We are securing peace for the whole of France. Polynesia's future can be great! Instead of being a lonely isolated territory, it is destined to be a great communication centre of the great Pacific." The population in France was propagated a clean way of nuclear testing, when Greenpeace first started to doubt this, their ship was promptly blown up by the French secret service.

The tests not only tried and destroyed the environment. The cancer rate in French Polynesia is very high, leukaemia and thyroid cancer were the most prevalent in the world there for a long time. But it is rarely possible to prove that the nuclear tests are to blame, doctors say. France formally recognised the consequences of the tests in 2016 and promised compensation for the people affected. 1200 applications have been submitted so far, 19 have been recognised, including only five Polynesians.

Macron's now said during his visit that there should be better compensation for the victims, saying the nuclear bomb tests were "anything but clean". He also wants transparency and truth. That is why he will now open the archives on the subject - as long as this is possible without revealing secret information about France's nuclear weapons.During his visit, many protesters demanded that Macron apologise. This demand was not met. So the Polynesians will have to continue to live with the consequences of the nuclear tests without being truly acknowledged. Nor, incidentally, is the contamination from radiation the only one, as the French army also left behind asbestos, lead and the toxic chlorine compound PCB, which were buried on the islands or dumped in the nearby ocean.



Protests in 1995