A public disagreement between the French and Dutch governments that share the island of St. Maarten has erupted in recent weeks over a perceived lack of cooperation between the two administrations.

 

The disagreement, which centres on concerns that the island’s 46,000 Dutch residents are benefitting disproportionately from French government support, began on July 16, after Jean-Jacques Urvoas, a French legislator, presented a report on the island’s governance before the French legislature.

During the presentation, he said that “all of the aid that France provides in the form of social aid finances the Dutch side,” according to the St. Maarten Daily Herald newspaper.

René Dosière, another French legislator, added a few moments later that a proposed agreement for the island’s two governments to collaborate on law enforcement matters has stalled because of Dutch St. Maarten’s lack of initiative.

“The ‘friendly island’ does not correspond to any example of cooperation,” he said. “There have been many agreements and declarations of intent, but these are never followed up and never applied for the simple reason the Dutch side has no interest.”

Mr. Dosiere added, “If no progress is made, the 1648 Treaty of Concordia should be denounced,” referring to the agreement that allowed the Netherlands and France to share the island.

Sarah Wescott-Williams, the prime minister of Dutch St. Maarten, criticised French officials’ claims, saying she was “disappointed” in their statements.

“It seems to suggest that things are not going well and that this is all the fault of the Dutch side. That does not do us justice,” she said in a July 27 press conference.

Michael Ferrier, a public relations officer for Ms. Wescott-Williams’ Democratic Party, added that more inter-governmental cooperation is needed to bolster the island’s economy.

“If the development of the economy on the French side and the Dutch side is not on equal footing, this will result in crime,” he said. “It is for us important that the economic position of the French side improves dramatically.”

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