Prime Minister at Symposium on the 365th Signing of the Treaty of Concordia

No one can represent St. Martin as St. Martiners Can. One Island in the Spirit of Unity Exemplified by the Treaty of Concordia

The Prime Minister of St. Maarten the Honorable Sarah Wescot-Williams delivered a stirring speech on the cooperation between the Dutch and French Sides of the island at a Symposium commemorating the 365th of the signing of the Treaty of Concordia at the Chamber of Commerce Building in Concordia on Saturday. The Symposium, which centered on the realities and constraints of cross border cooperation featured various speakers, with the Prime Minister and President of the Collectivite Alain Richardson.

The Prime Minister began her presentation by stating that it is commonly held that 365 years ago on March 23rd the treaty of Concordia was signed. "Despite it being widely recorded about what that treaty contains, there has been some discussion about the Treaty of Concordia itself. Some people feel it has not been written by St. Maarten people but for St. Maarten people, but whatever the case may be and regardless of who signed it it represents still today the aspirations of a people who share such a small landmass and who are basically one people. Today it is right to observe the signing of the treaty of Concordia and recognize what it means for us; protecting our common land and taking care of ourselves as one people.

Between 1648 and 1948 many things took place which affected St. Maarten but which not necessarily happened on St. Maarten. It is only in the early 1950’s for example the island territory of St. Maarten was regulated as such, formalized as a part of the Netherlands Antilles. So today it is not more than appropriate to recognize the foresight of the persons who in 1948 recognized the border monument and the importance of the agreements which were made in the spirit of the unity between our people. The spirit of the island, its oneness and its unity, was exemplary even then without any regulation having been put in place to officially do so.

I am one of those persons who have no problem being criticized for giving talks and luncheons and speeches on St. Maarten’s Day. Why do I not have a problem with it? During everyday of my work I think of cooperation and I think on making that cooperation between two sides of the same island actually work. So when the critics are speaking they are not speaking to me, as I believe that cooperation, especially on the day of celebrating our island, is of paramount importance," commented the Prime Minister.

The PM continued by explaining that in the quest to come to a good working cooperation between the two sides of the island, an MOU was drafted and approved by both Paris and Willemstad. "However it became clear that the practical aspects of working together continued, but the level of competency between the two sides was not equal, even then. And so with the 2006 MOU we realized that the state responsibilities on French St. Martin could not be sufficiently addressed. In 2007 a new constitutional reality for St Martin and in 2010 a new constitutional reality for St. Maarten was brought about which considerably changed the dynamic.

"In especially the matter of Foreign Affairs we believe that as a country we realized that we needed some kind of say in how our country is represented internationally, especially when it comes to regional partnerships. So in 2010 discussions picked up again regarding the formalization of cooperation which eventually led to the Letter of Intent of 2012 where all parties came to understand the particulars of that cooperation.

The PM also recognized the workers of the Department of Foreign Relations of St. Maarten for their work on the preparations which were developed for consultations centered on cooperation. "I received an email from the Department of Foreign Relations in The Hague about requesting to be involved in a meeting. I immediately addressed that issue, going so far as saying that the meeting will not go ahead unless I am clear who will be present. I had to inform everyone that unfortunately The Hague could not be part of that meeting, despite the misunderstanding by France that the Dutch should be present. We have come so far in our evolution as an island that we definitely can’t go back now. No one can represent St. Maarten as St. Maarteners can so that is why that particular meeting did not take place. I therefore had to explain how things work with regards to St. Maarten and how cooperation should look like. This, like many things, was a learning process. You may think that on a personal level we can just continue cooperation but we do need to have a formal framework put in place. And now it is a matter of evolution and we will come to the right structure of cooperation on behalf of the people of St. Maarten. We remain connected much like Siamese twins; two souls sharing one body. I believe in moving forward while simultaneously knowing how far we have come and indeed I believe we have come very, very far," concluded the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister then continued to answer questions from the large audience regarding her views on cooperation with the northern side of the island. The PM explained the possibilities of a gradual move towards independence, the particulars of the treaty of Concordia and representation of both French and Dutch St. Maarten within the European Union.