French and Dutch ready to sign cooperation agreement

POSTED: 12/3/11 10:52 AM

MARIGOT – The Council of Ministers met with its French counterparts yesterday for a meeting about cross-border cooperation.

“In some areas the cooperation got off to a spluttering start,” Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said at the end of the meeting at La Maison d’Entreprises in Concordia – the French Chamber of Commerce.

That spluttering start had to do with competencies on different levels. Now, for the first time, with both sides of the island in a different constitutional status, the governments of France and the Netherlands are about to sign a bilateral agreement in the course of next week that will put in place a framework for structural cooperation.

Talks no longer take place on the central level after the constitutional change, Wescot-Williams said. The autonomous country St. Maarten and the Kingdom government are represented on the Dutch side, and the Collectivité de Saint Martin and the French state are represented on the French side. On the Dutch side, only nationality, foreign affairs and defense are Kingdom matters, all other matters are now the responsibility of country St. Maarten.

“We are a Siamese twin, tied at the border. There is no area that does not sooner or later affect both sides of the island.”

Préfet délégué Jacques Simonnet said the agreement is “a historic moment in the island’s history.”

He mentioned tourism, energy and transport as three areas of common interest.

Simonnet presented Wescot-Williams with a gold medal from the Collectivité.

The meeting was also attended by Vice Prime Minister Theo Heyliger, Justice Minister Roland Duncan, Culture and Education Minister Rhoda Arrindell, Collectivité President Frantz Gumbs and his former first vice president Daniel Gibbs. Representatives from the government organization on both sides of the border, like the fire brigade, the gendarmerie and the police were in the audience.

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