Richardson wants new partnership with EuropePOSTED: 07/10/12 12:09 PM
BRUSSELS/MARIGOT – President of the Collectivité de St. Martin Alain Richardson has called for new partnership arrangements between the European Union and both sides of St. Maarten. The call was made at a recent meeting between Ultra-Peripheral Territitories and senior officials at the European Union’s head office.
The new partnership that Richardson desires focuses on funding for projects and on the islands showcasing the Europe to the rest of the Americas. The partnership should also place focus on the territory’s attractiveness and competitiveness.
“Through this contract, the ambitions and expectations of Europe in this part of the world and ours would find the balance that would allow everyone to serve each other through win-win agreements. St. Martin can be and is a showcase of Europe at the door of the Americas. St. Martin as a UPT has already captured the attention of Caribbean policy makers at the Caricom (Caribbean Community edi., -), the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States edi., -) Cariforum and the ACS,” Richardson said.
Unity and development
Richardson’s presentation placed emphasis on the unity of the Dutch and French sides of St. Maarten. He believes that unity gives the Netherlands and France a testing ground for new forms of cooperation. That possibility is why the Territorial Council unanimously adopted the Operational Program 2014 – 2020. The nine point program is aimed at improving the economy, health, education and infrastructure.
The plan includes the roll out of phase three of the plan for a commercial port, lengthening the runway at the L’ Esperance airport in Grand Case, improving the road network in collaboration with the Dutch side and working with the Dutch side’s port and airport, improving unsafe houses and improving healthcare system by adding more and new equipment. Even at though Richardson’s government is not happy with what they have now, he acknowledges that the quality of care has drawn people from Anguilla, St. Barthelemy, St. Maarten, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saba and St. Eustatius.
The operational program also places focus on staffing structures in the education and training sector, turning St. Martin into a center of excellence in regional trade, import-export and redistribution of new technologies, ICT or mobile phones, development of renewable energy sources like solar, wind and water (specifically the sea) and sustaining biodiversity.
Richardson also used his speech to plead for special treatment because of the specific region that St. Martin is located in. He specifically requested concessions in terms of applying European standards that put the island at a competitive disadvantage.
“Ties of all kinds have developed over the years with neighboring territories ( social, economic, cultural, identity, history), yet the administrative, economic and social development of St. Martin is much more restrictive than those in other islands,” Richardson believes.
The president of the Collectivité believes these firm standards negate the joint competitive advantage of the entire island (French and Dutch). Those advantages include the fact that island is shared by France and the Netherlands, the people have a joint history and will, the open land borders and there is freedom of movement of goods and people. Another of the advantages is that businesses accept both the euro and U.S. dollar. The use of the euro has a sore point though, because it gives the vast majority of tourists (70 percent who come from the United States) less spending power.
“A strong euro is a factor in economic decline for St. Martin,” Richardson said.