Minister Blok confirms support for St. Maarten

THE HAGUE–Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok during his visit to St. Maarten early this month confirmed his intention to support the island in its contacts with the European Union (EU) and other international organisations. These contacts are especially important in the reconstruction phase and the cooperation with the French side.

Blok stated this in a four-page letter he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Monday about his April 3-7 visit to St. Maarten, Curaçao, Aruba, Colombia and Venezuela. This was his first official visit to the Dutch Caribbean and South American countries since his appointment in March.

Blok’s visit to St. Maarten on April 3 focused on the international aspects of the island’s reconstruction after Hurricane Irma. St. Maarten’s Governor Eugene Holiday, Prime Minister Leona Romeo-Marlin and President of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams informed him about the progress in the reconstruction phase.

Blok visited the Red Cross’ School Meals Programme, one of the Early Recovery projects financed by the Dutch Government, and met with representatives of international organisations, including the World Bank, which will manage the 470-million-euro St. Maarten Reconstruction Trust Fund, and a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Together with Romeo- Marlin, Blok spoke with St. Martin Préfète Anne Laubies and other representatives of the French side.

“I have been able to conclude that the relations with the French side of the island have improved considerably under the interim government. The preparation of a number of joint projects for EU financing, such as a wastewater treatment plant, are actively being pursued again,” stated Blok.

He announced a technical consultation between the Netherlands, Dutch St. Maarten, France and French St. Martin in May. Security will be the main topic of this meeting. It is the intention to hold a high-level meeting of the four parties in Paris in June where cooperation on autonomous affairs as well as on the level of the Kingdom will be discussed.

“I have expressed my support to assist St. Maarten in the contacts with the EU and other international organisations,” Blok said.

He took part in a meeting with Dutch Caribbean Prime Ministers Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao, Evelyn Wever-Croes of Aruba and Romeo-Marlin of St. Maarten in Curaçao on April 5. One of the subjects discussed during this meeting was the UN Security Council.

The Kingdom is a member of the UN Security Council this year. One of the subjects the Kingdom is addressing in the Council concerns the challenges of small island developing states (SIDS), in particular the nexus between climate change and security. He said Hurricane Irma was a clear example of such a challenge.

“Working on an international level to achieve sustainable and resilient societies is of direct importance for the Caribbean countries of the Kingdom,” stated Blok, who noted that the possibility of organising a regional Planetary Security expert meeting was discussed during the annual Kingdom Consultation Foreign Affairs in Curaçao on April 5.

It was agreed during the same meeting to seek closer cooperation to increase participation in regional organisations such as the Caribbean Community Caricom and to work on relations with (other) neighbouring countries. The relations with the EU and Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten as overseas countries and territories (OCTs) were also discussed.

About the meeting in Curaçao, Blok stated: “The consultation was constructive, it took place in a positive atmosphere and has laid an excellent basis for further cooperation as full-fledged partners with respect for the autonomy of the countries. I am sure that the Kingdom as a whole, as well as each autonomous country, benefits from solid cooperation and balancing that puts mutual responsibilities and interests in foreign policy unity first.”

Source: The Daily Herald