Historical Tripartite Meeting on Cooperation

Concordia- Discussions on island cooperation and a joint declaration that may well follow later this month were at the heart of the tri-party meetings that were held in Concordia on Friday, December 2nd between the Council of Ministers, Executive Council and the Préfét of Saint-Martin.

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These first tri-party discussions pave the way for a series of cooperation initiatives that are good for the people of the entire island. Counterparts on civil servant level met during numerous preparatory sessions over the past months in technical working groups. The groups’ first priority was to make an inventory of the areas where cooperation is to be carried out, in the most pragmatic and bottom –up approach. This approach was called ‘new and revolutionary’ by Préfet Jacques Simonnet who enthusiastically applauds the initiatives.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams considers this agreement an acknowledgement of the new competences both sides enjoy and as a logical follow-up to the MOU of 2006.

This tri-party discussion is important because on the level of the Collectivité some domains are shared with the State, while in matters of treaty regulation the Kingdom of the Netherlands would be involved as far as Country Sint Maarten is concerned. The last working session, which took place this week, was chaired by the Préfet Jacques Simonnet and President Gumbs de la Collectivité with Director of Foreign Relations St. Maarten, Mr. van der Meulen leading the delegation of Dutch side technicians. Approximately, 30 coordinators and technicians from almost all ministries of both sides of the Island were able to present a short summary of the work in progress and the conclusions that had been reached.

Ever since the island of Sint Maarten was divided into separate administrative entities, there have been many complementary interests. For quite some time now, both parts have been striving for closer cooperation. Meanwhile, the status of both the North and South of the island has changed. St. Maarten is now an autonomous country within the Dutch Kingdom and Saint Martin is now a Collectivité de l’Outre Mer of the French Republic.

In 2010 France called for a platform called the "Commission Mixte," in which the Kingdom and France would discuss matters pertaining to St. Maarten and Saint-Martin. Saint-Martin as a UPG forms part of the EU, Sint Maarten with LGO status does not.

However, both island governments wish to leave matters of practical cooperation, as much as possible, on an island level. President, Frantz Gumbs has strongly defended this concept at the level of the French Government and with the Minister of the French Overseas Departments and Territories. This wish by the local authorities has been supported by the efforts of Préfet Simonnet who has encouraged his services to work with their counterparts to find solutions to local concerns.

On Friday July 15, 2011 the Council of Ministers of St. Maarten and the Collectivité met to discuss subjects of cooperation.

The following areas were identified

1. Security

2. Health, Education and Social Affairs

3. Economic Cooperation and Tourism

4. Transportation

5. Environmental Protection and Urban Planning

The platform and dialogue will not alter existing structures. It will improve cross border cooperation, which is much needed in a world facing turmoil and a fragmented Euro zone.

To facilitate this, a letter of Intent was drafted in Concordia and is expected to be signed later this month, pending agreement by both governments. Following this, the expected cooperation between the Northern and Southern side of the friendly island will be given a boost to help improve security, health, education, transportation, social affairs, urban planning, economic development and tourism as well as environmental protection.