~Captain Olivers Marina and Restaurant now falls under French Jurisdiction~
PHILIPSBURG:--- Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs and Patrice Gumbs Director of the Foreign Affairs Department on St. Maarten announced on Tuesday that the border negotiations have concluded and the signing of the agreement on the new demarcation will take place on May 26th, 2023 by her person and the French Minister of Interior Affairs. The new treaty has 348 pointers that have been addressed and will be legally binding.
The Prime Minister said that even though announcements were made towards the end of 2022 by various parties both French and Dutch she remained silent on the matter until all procedures have been finalized. She said the border agreement concluded in March 2023.
Jacobs said the announcements made earlier were premature since the proposals had not gone through the proper channels. However, the new treaty that will be signed on March 26th, 2023, will be legal and binding. Prior to the signing of the agreements the Parliament of St. Maarten was apprised behind closed doors. After the signing on May 26th, 2023, the signed treaty will be sent back to the Kingdom Parliament and the French Parliament for finalization. The new treaty will take effect at least one year after the signing.
Jacobs said that the negotiations took some 9 years before an agreement could be reached, she explained that in 2014 the French contested the Dutch claim with regards to Oyster Pond and they had filed a petition with the United Nations indicating there was a border dispute. This she said strained the relationship between the French and Dutch and there was an impasse for several years.
Jacobs explained that the negotiations were led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs on St. Maarten and the Ministry of Defense in The Hague and both sides of Cadasters Offices and various Ministries. The Prime Minister said in June 2022 a proposed text was concluded for political agreement and the outcome has been placed in a treaty that is recognized internationally and is a legally binding document.
In breaking down the agreement that have been reached the Prime Minister said that the road in Cupe Coy shifted to the Northern side meaning it has moved further to the Dutch side, while Marigot Hill was also in favor of the Dutch, Belle Plaine Road was designated to the French all the way to the border.
OYSTER POND – CAPTAIN OLIVERS RESTAURANT AND MARINA.
The water rights were shared equally based on the principle of aqua distance; However, Oyster Pond was designated to the French side which means the Captain Olivers Marina and Restaurant will fall under French jurisdiction. The owners of Captain Olivers are the only ones that have been severely impacted by the new treaty. Negotiations with the business owner still have to take place even though they were officially informed. The Government of St. Maarten are prepared to enter into negotiations with the owners of Captain Olivers restaurant and marina to see if they will commence doing business with the French side or if they would want to continue doing business with the Dutch side, should the business owners decide to continue their working relationship with the Dutch side then the Council of Ministers would have to find another location with Erfpact for the business.
While the government of St. Maarten has lost revenue with the only business affected by the new treaty, Captain Olivers Restaurant and Marina have been in a dilapidated state since the passing of Hurricane IRMA and Maria in September 2017.
With this new agreement, the Dutch side has gained some 7,109 square meters of land but lost water rights. Residents in Marigot Hill that have been affected over the years will now have the opportunity to have all utilities from the Dutch side of the island including a road.
The Prime Minister said both governments shared concerns about the security issues at Oyster Pond since there has never been border control in this area while people and goods have been entering the island for years there.
Prime Minister: Border Negotiations Successful.
PHILIPSBURG:--- Prime Minister and Minister of General Affairs Ms. Silveria Jacobs accompanied by Interim Director for the Directorate of Foreign Relations, Mr. Patrice Gumbs, held a press conference to inform the public of the developments regarding the negotiations for the border between Sint Maarten and Saint-Martin.
Since the end of 2022, reports have been in the media from both the Kingdom level as well as from the side of France that an agreement had been reached on the location of the border between Sint Maarten and Saint-Martin. These public discussions were deemed premature as the proposals had not yet gone through the proper channels of approval; the agreement had only been reached at the technical level and still had to be approved at the Ministerial level, on St. Maarten, in the Kingdom Council of Ministers.
The approval process was finalized between both states in March this year. As such, the Prime Minister found it prudent to wait until all documentation and steps were finalized before making any public statements. It is important to note that from the inception, and at every stage, the Government of Sint Maarten was in the lead and wholly involved in determining the mandate.
The negotiations, as per Kingdom law, were led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with the Department of Foreign Relations, the Ministry of Defense, as well as both the local and Dutch Cadasters; along with inputs from the various Ministries including VROMI, TEATT, and Justice. The negotiation team consisted of representation from both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Foreign Relations.
Prime Minister Jacobs will sign the treaty on Sint Maarten on May 26, on behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Minister of Interior Gerard Darmanin will sign on behalf of the State of France. More information on the signing event will be shared in terms of place and time in a joint statement with our Northern counterparts.
Background on Negotiations
Since 2014, there have been disagreements related to the border on the island. These disagreements came about when the French contested the Dutch claim over all the water in Oyster Pond. This led to several instances of direct confrontation between authorities from both sides of the island and unfortunately strained the longstanding relationship between both governments.
In December 2017, the French filed a petition with the United Nations, signaling the existence of an international border dispute on the island. This triggered the need to come to agreements, as the deadlock that ensued after the petition would have led to Arbitration, which would not answer the need for a comprehensive approach to the entire border. November 2021, saw the Government of Sint Maarten adopt a more compromise-driven approach, that would prove to advance discussions and move the island closer towards the end goal, hence we are here today.
Following nine years of deliberation, we will finally put to rest the border issue on Saint Martin. Technical experts are working diligently to finalize the new iteration of our map, as there are 348 points that need to be transformed and placed on the map.
Changes to the Border
The border along the road in Cupecoy will shift north in favor of the Dutch. The border along Marigot Hill Road will shift north in favor of the Dutch. We confirm Dutch sovereignty, that is authority over Higher Bethlehem. The border along the road in Belle Plaine will shift west in favor of the French. The border along the road leading to Oyster Pond will shift north in favor of the Dutch. Oyster Pond will be shared on the principle of equidistance, between the French and the Dutch.
The changes mainly concern public areas and as such individuals are not impacted. The largest change is in Oyster Pond; the border runs through the middle of the pond, thereby giving an equal share of the water to both sides. The Southern part of Oyster Pond will be retained by Sint Maarten (Kingdom of the Netherlands) and the Northern part of Saint-Martin (French Republic). The persons that will be proportionally impacted have been informed. However, the new treaty ensures that the relevant authorities will ensure the rights of anyone impacted by the changes.
The Prime Minister elaborated by stating, “I would like to stress that the realization of this treaty legally establishes the boundaries of the Southern and Northern territories of the island but does not undermine the oneness and unity that we speak of among the people that call this island home. The realization of this treaty, in fact, has several benefits for all citizens of our island. Clarity on the borderline removes ambiguity and facilitates our long-term planning and development.”
The treaty will be advantageous for cross-border cooperation. Re-engagement on the border has led to the reopening of a broader French-Dutch relationship and cooperation in areas that will benefit the population (education, health, and security agreements are slated to be signed next month, for example). The treaty makes provisions for the establishment of a joint border commission and a cooperation platform to facilitate the continued cooperation between the governments on both sides. The treaty also makes provisions to promote cooperation on all cross-border land and inland waterway connections of common interest. In the negotiations, Dutch Sint Maarten has ensured the right to access, freedom of navigation, mooring, and freedom to conduct artisanal fishing in both Simpson Bay Lagoon and Oyster Pond.
“I would like to thank everyone for their attention and those in attendance at today’s press conference. A special word of thanks to the technocrats involved over the past years on St. Martin, in its entirety, as well as those in The Hague and Paris. Finally, I promise to share the map as soon as it becomes available.” concluded Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs.