May 24, 2023 -The Daily Herald News -PHILIPSBURG–A new treaty to cement the recently-agreed-on changes to the borderline between Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin will be inked by French and Dutch officials this Friday, May 26, 2023.
The treaty will be signed at the Belle Plaine/Belvedere Border Monument and as a result the road will be closed 5:00-7:00pm and traffic will be diverted.
Under the changes, the French gained water rights in a section of Oyster Pond, including jurisdiction over Captain Oliver’s Restaurant and Marina, while the Dutch will gain 7,109 square metres in land mass over several border points.
Prime Minister Silveria Jacobs told reporters on Wednesday that the changes will be solidified in a new treaty which she will sign on behalf of the Kingdom Government. Representatives of the French State, including Minister of Interior Gérald Moussa Darmanin and French Overseas Minister Jean-François Carenco, will be on-island for the occasion.
“This agreement demonstrates our commitment to resolving differences through peaceful means and finding common ground for collective prosperity for our citizens. Together we embark on a new era of collaboration and shared progress solidifying our position as a nation that values peace, diplomacy, as well as positive engagement with our brothers and sisters in the North,” Jacobs said during the live Council of Ministers press briefing.
The changes will not affect the current square mileage in Dutch St. Maarten (16 square miles) and French Saint Martin (21 square miles). The treaty will take six months to a year following the signing before entering into force.
In elaborating on the changes, Jacobs had told reporters at a May 9 press conference that the border along the road in Cupecoy will shift north in favour of the Dutch. The border along Marigot Hill Road will shift north in favour of the Dutch. The Dutch will retain authority in the Higher Bethlehem area and the border along the road in Belle Plaine will shift west in favour of the French.
Additionally, the border along the road leading to Oyster Pond will shift north in favour of the Dutch and Oyster Pond, which was the greatest contention at the time, will now be based on the principle of equi-distance, which is internationally recognised, to be shared equally between French St. Martin and the Dutch St. Maarten.
Jacobs had explained that the changes mainly concern public areas and as such individuals are not impacted, as it is either public land or it belongs to the same families on both sides.
“The largest change is in Oyster Pond; the border now runs through the middle of the pond, thereby giving equal shares of the water to both sides. The southern part of Oyster Pond will be retained by St. Maarten (Kingdom of the Netherlands) and the northern part to St-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 will be properly addressed,” she had explained at the time.
As Captain Oliver’s is the only company to which Dutch St. Maarten had issued rights, the changes mean that revenue in terms of taxes, etc., from Captain Oliver’s, currently not in operation since being damaged during Hurricane Irma in 2017, will now shift to the French-side government. All the other landowners along that line do not have permission from the Dutch government to establish marinas. Jacobs said there was therefore little legal basis for St. Maarten to “win” if the matter had gone to arbitration, hence St. Maarten had opted to enter into negotiations.
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution that resolves disputes outside the judiciary courts. Gumbs added that there was always the common belief that the Dutch government exercised authority in the entire Oyster Pond area while government only concerned itself with Captain Oliver’s, while the remainder of the persons in that area dealt completely with the French, which he said undermined St. Maarten’s claim for the control of all waters in Oyster Pond.
The changes were agreed to after nine years of deliberations.
In the meantime, Jacobs on Wednesday hosted her monthly bilateral meeting with Préfet Vincent Breton and President of the Collectivité Louis Mussington