By Hajer M'tiri
The congress of French overseas territory of New Caledonia voted on Monday to hold an independence referendum on Nov.4, according to media reports.
Legislatures approved the date at a public meeting in the capital Noumea, with 38 votes in favor and 14 opposed, according to French radio Europe1.
Under the 1998 Noumea Accord, France has given the South Pacific former colony greater autonomy to formulate its own tax, labour laws and trade policy but not defense or foreign policy.
However, many of the archipelago's 278,000 inhabitants, particularly within the indigenous Kanak community, has been calling for full independence since the 1980s.
According to a poll by the I-Scope Institute for Caledonia released last year, nearly 60 percent of registered voters would vote against independence.
In the last independence referendum in 1987, boycotted by the Kanaks, 98 percent voted to stay with France.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe described the New Caledonia's independence referendum as "a challenge which is not without risk."
Speaking at the French National Assembly on March 13, Philippe urged all parts to safeguard what has been attained during 30 years of peace.
The French premier will be addressing the issue at a meeting with New Caledonian political leaders, scheduled to take place in Paris on March 27.