Sint Maarten border treaty must put an end to 375 years of ambiguity

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Silveria Jacobs and Gérald Darmanin during the signing
NOS News

It was also recorded 375 years ago: the division of the island of Sint Maarten. It was just never completely clear where the border between the French-speaking and Dutch-speaking part ran.

Until now: Prime Minister Silvia Jacobs of Sint Maarten and the French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin signed a treaty on Sint Maarten yesterday in which the precise border between the Dutch and French parts is determined. According to the countries, the border treaty provides clarity and stimulates the further development of the island.

According to some traditions, the original border was determined in 1648 after a running race between the French and the Dutch. Because the French covered a greater distance, France would have been given a larger portion of the island. But the Treaty of Concordia concluded that year never completely resolved the ambiguity.

Oyster Pond

The treaty was followed by more than 150 years of border disputes, until the division of the island became final in 1817. But even then not all ambiguities were resolved. For example, the border at the village of Oyster Pond remained disputed and it was unclear whether the entire bay belonged to the Dutch part, or only a part.

This led to a fight between the Netherlands and France in 2016, when the French police raided a restaurant in the village. According to the French, the owner had not paid any taxes and a building permit was missing. The owner of the restaurant, on the other hand, paid taxes in the Dutch part and had obtained a building permit through the Dutch authorities. The same conflict took place at a marina on the north side of the bay.

Under the new treaty, France will receive a portion of the water rights in Oyster Pond. The Dutch side gives up some square kilometers, but in other places the border is stretched to the north.

The map below shows the new border, which now clearly indicates where the border is in the village of Oyster Pond and the bay.

The border on the island of Sint Maarten separates the southern Dutch part from the northern French part

Not only the disputed border, but also differences between the Dutch and French part of the island led to tensions in the past year. Unlike the Dutch part, the French part is part of the EU, resulting in economic differences.

In 2014, a French parliamentary committee accused the Dutch part of enriching itself on the back of the French part.

With the newly agreed borders, the signatories hope that it will promote cooperation on Sint Maarten. “The signing of this treaty is not a means of division or just a symbolic gesture; it is a proof of dialogue, compromise and unity. It ushers in an era of cooperation, where map lines no longer separate us,” said Prime Minister Jacobs.

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