Dutch State Secretary for Kingdom relations and Digitalisation Alexandra van Huffelen speaking to reporters after the Kingdom Council of Ministers meeting on Friday. At right, Aruba Minister Plenipotentiary Ady Thijsen. (Otti Thomas/Amigoe photo)
THE HAGUE--The Kingdom Council of Ministers during its monthly in The Hague on Friday approved the treaty with France that defines the exact demarcation of the border between French St. Martin and Dutch St. Maarten.
Speaking to reporters outside immediately after Friday’s meeting, Dutch State Secretary for Kingdom relations and Digitalisation Alexandra van Huffelen said that she had some good news to share about St. Maarten. It was a special decision, she said.
The decision to approve the treaty between the Dutch Kingdom and France, and the signing which is expected in the near future, brings an end to a long-time dispute about the border which was initially established in 1648.
Van Huffelen referred to the old-time story that a Dutchman and a Frenchman each started at one end of the island and walked towards each other. The border was set at the point where they more or less met. “However, there has been a discussion about that border and the dispute has resulted in some issues,” said the state secretary.
The dispute at times increased in severity, with a low point in 2016 when French side authorities arrested the owner of the Captain Oliver’s, a marina and restaurant in Oyster Pond during an inspection, because, according to the French, the business did not have the correct permits. However, Captain Oliver’s was considered to resort under the responsibility of Dutch St. Maarten.
Out of protest, then St. Maarten Prime Minister William Marlin did not attend the St. Martin Day celebration, and then Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders disapproved of the French side action. “The French action, in the opinion of the Kingdom, infringes on the status quo agreement. Both the St. Maarten government and the Kingdom have shared their concerns to France about the executed inspection.”
Negotiations between France and the Kingdom, on behalf of St. Maarten, to arrive at a final demarcation of the border started after the 2016 incident. Civil servants from Paris and The Hague had many consultations and there were several meetings. Finally, after almost 7 years, there is a concrete result.
“St. Maarten and the French Republic have reached an agreement. It is a special step because this solves the dispute, but it also provides clarity to the people and businesses on both sides of the island. I understood from the St. Maarten prime minister that this will also provide room to work more together in other areas,” said Van Huffelen.
The Kingdom Council of ministers on Friday approved the proposal of Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra for a Kingdom law to establish the treaty between the Dutch Kingdom and the French Republic.
The treaty includes an arrangement about the preservation and maintenance of the border, the mutual rights of citizens in (border-crossing) inland waters, the legal position of persons and entities affected by the treaty and the establishing of a joint border committee.
The treaty will first be sent to the Council of State of the Kingdom for advice after which St. Maarten Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs will sign the treaty, as will a French representative.