27 February 2013

‘The State (France) failed to prepare St. Martin for new status’

MARIGOT--Senator Louis-Constant Fleming plans to take France's Minister of Overseas Territories Victorin Lurel to task over the State's failure to properly establish the Collectivité of St. Martin, whereas it has fulfilled its obligations towards New Caledonia and Mayotte and is about do so again for Martinique and French Guiana, two territories that will become Collectivités in 2015.

On February 13, the Minister submitted to the Council of Ministers two ordinances, organizing and preparing the institutional change of Martinique and French Guiana that will become Collectivités in 2015.

One ordinance determines budgetary rules, financial and accounting that will be applicable to both Collectivités, and the other deals with the transfer of civil servants of the department and the region to each new Collectivité without changing their status, and also the transfer of assets and liabilities of the department and region to each new Collectivité.

According to the terms of the Daily Bulletin of Thursday, February 14, "these orders give the new Collectivités human and material resources, as well as budgetary tools and financial matters necessary for their proper functioning."

"We can rejoice for Martinique and French Guiana to have the preparation of their new Collectivité status in place and taken care of, since this high skills transfer cannot take place without the prior transfer of financial means and human resources," commented Fleming.

"Provision is also required for the time needed to make the transition, by knowledgeable staff assisting in the implementation of the new administration.

"But we cannot help thinking that St. Martin has been paying the price of a municipality's total unpreparedness and a total non-interest of the State, even though the procedures were done previously with Mayotte and New-Caledonia.

"In the case of St. Martin, it was to move from a municipal administration to a real territorial administration with municipal, departmental, regional and some state responsibilities. It is obvious that such a transition should have been prepared, and a single municipal administration is by definition very limited. The State should have provided the new Collectivité employees the necessary tools and time for a serious and successful launch under the new status."

Fleming emphasises the State has not fulfilled its obligations towards St. Martin, but met them towards New Caledonia and Mayotte in their institutional transitions and is about to respect them for Martinique and French Guiana.

"Yet France had enough time to implement the changes for St Martin, given the time that elapsed between the referendum of December 2003 and the Organic Law of February 21, 2007, establishing the new Collectivité," he argued. "It seems to me therefore necessary and appropriate to question the Minister of Overseas, previously Member of Parliament (MP) for St. Martin until June 2012, and to remind him of the State's failure to establish the Collectivité of St. Martin.

"It is also his moral obligation to repair the damages done. The best thing the State could do to start repairing the damages done is to obtain the annulment of the decree of April 22, 2011, fixing an overall budget of negative compensation of 634,126 euros. The Collectivité has made a request to the Council of State on July 2011 for cancellation and has, to this date, not received an answer."