French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin and Dutch-side Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs representing the Dutch Kingdom shake hands following signing of the border treaty at Belle Plaine, French Quarter, on Friday afternoon, as French Overseas Minister Jean-François Carenco (left) and President of the Collectivité Louis Mussington (second left) look on. (Robert Luckock photo).
BELLE PLAINE--The historic signing of the treaty for the long-awaited official demarcation of the borders between French St. Martin and Dutch St. Maarten took place at Belle Plaine, French Quarter, on Friday, a ceremony ushering in a new era of economic development, cooperation and optimism.
The assembled dignitaries pose for a group photo after the treaty signing. (Robert Luckock photos)
Witnessed by government dignitaries and distinguished guests from both sides of the island, the treaty was signed in front of the border monument by Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs representing the Kingdom of the Netherlands and French Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, representing the French Republic. Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs giving her speech at the treaty-signing ceremony in Belle Plaine, French Quarter.
In her speech prior to the signing, the prime minister said, “We are standing on the precipice of a momentous occasion, amid an atmosphere of anticipation and jubilation, the culmination of years of intricate negotiations, a dance of diplomacy that has led to an agreement of great precedence.”
Jacobs, who expressed her “immense pride” at signing on behalf of the Dutch Kingdom, recalled the countless hours, tireless dedication and unwavering commitment of everyone involved. Ceremony in progress at the Belle Plaine border, French Quarter.
“These hours have brought us to this defining moment; our shared vision of a harmonious and cooperative future has guided us through the labyrinth of complexity, transcending differences, of which there are many, but bridging divides. We are celebrating a triumph of diplomacy and mutual respect.
“Differences are solved through peaceful means, through education, dialogue, knowledge. This treaty signing is not a means of division or just a symbolic gesture but a testament to dialogue, compromise and most of all, unity. It signals an era of cooperation where map lines no longer divide us but only remind us of the bonds that bind us together as neighbours, partners and stewards of a shared destiny. It does not undermine the unity we have as one people.”
She emphasised that the treaty paves the way for enhanced cooperation, harnessing collective strengths, sharing expertise and resources to tackle challenges ahead. The foundation has been laid for joint initiatives in areas such as tourism, environmental preservation, cultural exchange and economic development.
She noted the upcoming quad-partite (Q4) meeting, the first since 2019, will see agreements validated between both sides of the island, the Netherlands and France, on education, police cooperation and maritime hot pursuits. A cooperation platform will also be established and formalised by the Directorate of Foreign Relations to outline and coordinate cooperation with St. Martin.
“These initiatives will benefit our respective communities and underscore the need for cooperation. I must say that cooperation between us continues regularly in meetings through dialogue and discussions – a great foundation for our future, cooperation that promotes prosperity, sustainability and a shared sense of purpose.”
In a message to the population, she said the culmination and celebration of this journey is “as much yours as it is mine.”
“Your patience, unwavering support and resilience has carried us through some of the longest and darkest hours and propelled us towards this triumph, a triumph for all the people. It’s your determination that fuelled our hopes and strengthened our resolve to build a brighter future together. This document reflects the blood, sweat and tears of all stakeholders working together.”
President of the Collectivité of St. Martin, Louis Mussington and French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin also spoke.
Said Mussington: “This is not a new treaty. What is important today is that it reinforces the close links between St. Maarten and St. Martin, notably in domains of economy, security, education, culture, technology, climate change, environment and cooperation.”
Minister Darmanin added: “This treaty will contribute to facilitating reconstruction of the territory following Hurricane Irma while preserving the principles of the original 1648 Treaty of Concordia for free movement of goods and people.”
Darmanin was joined for the occasion by French Minister Delegate for Overseas Territories, Jean-François Carenco, as the pair were scheduled on Saturday to pay visits to the Gendarmerie, Fire Station, the water production plant, as well as officially laying the foundation stone for the new administration and judicial building in Concordia. Their visit culminated with a visit to St. Barths on Sunday.
Also present among the dignitaries for the treaty signing were Governor of St. Maarten Ajamu Baly, Préfet of the Guadeloupe Region Xavier Lefort and Chargé de Cooperation Régionale dans la Zone Atlantique, Roland Dubertrand.