The French part of the Caribbean island of St Martin-St Maarten is impoverished; the Dutch part is just getting richer. French politicians are mad. “This cannot continue, we have to do something.”
According to a French parliamentary committee, the Dutch part in the south is enriching itself at the cost of the French part in the north.
“The Dutch and the French side are two completely different economies, without a border or customs,” said committee chairman René Dosière.
The island was divided in two in 1648 in the Treaty of Concordia. There was free movement of people and goods. And the French want to break that now.
“All the money that France invests in the French part of the island, ends up in the southern part, which is the Dutch kingdom,” explained Dosière.
The French side is part of the EU; the Dutch part not. “In the Dutch St Maarten the rules are more flexible, wages and taxes are lower and the products are cheaper.” The French part uses the euro and the Dutch dollars.
French officials exchange their salary, which is paid in euros, immediately at favourable exchange rates in the south. According to Dosière, thousands of French do that every month. Thus they gain 30 percent of their purchasing power.
They spend their money also in the Dutch part, because everything is much cheaper there. More and more French business owners leave for the Dutch part to earn money.
So the money from the French state goes to the Dutch part, the parliamentary committee concluded, and France thereby subsidizes the development of the Netherlands in St Maarten.
Another problem is that the French part is unwillingly saddled with migrants.
“The migrants enter through the Dutch part because there is little monitoring,” said Dosière. “The Dutch agents know that the migrants still travel to the French part, because they can get education, health and social benefits easier.”
According to Dosière, the Dutch government doesn’t care and is uncooperative to change.
“If nothing happens, then France could terminate the Treaty of Concordia. If need be the French will put real limits on St Maarten with border controls and visas,” he said.