March 31, 2007 - #72
St-Barth Becomes An Overseas Collectivity
After the French Constitutional Council approved laws n°2007-223 and n°2007-224 concerning the new political status of France's overseas territories, the laws very signed on February 21, 2007 by president Jacques Chirac, and several officials at that time, including prime minister Dominique de Villepin, interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, foreign affairs minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, economic, finance and industry minister Thierry Breton, justice minister Pascal Clément, and overseas minister François Baroin. The two laws establish St. Barthélemy and the French side of St. Martin into two different Overseas Collectivities, or COMs, as per article 74 of the constitution, and separating them administratively from Guadeloupe.
These two laws confirm the referendum of December 7, 2003, which proved the desire of the voters in the Northern Islands to evolve toward a special status different from that of a town. The officials of the new collectivities in St. Barth and St. Martin now have a freer hand to manage an important part of their public affairs. France now has six Overseas Collecivities including Polynesia, Wallis & Futuna, St. Pierre & Miquelon, Mayotte, St. Barth, and St. Martin, each with a specific status and different degree of autonomy.
In adopting the two laws, the French Constitutional Council confirmed the legality of the concept of a fixed residency on the island for a minimum of five years before becoming a fiscal resident of the COM. There will also be the creation of two parliamentary seats for the islands. The election of the two senators should take place during the three months following the election of the new territorial councils, so that the next three-year renewal of the Senate will count 333 seats rather than 331. As for the two new representatives, their election will take place in 2012 after legislative redistricting.
The new COM will be run by a territorial council— which has a president— an executive council, and an advisory economic, social, and cultural council. The territorial council replaces the current municipal council. In St. Martin, there will be 23 members, with 19 in St. Barth. They will be elected with a two- tiered process in which the two lists that come out ahead in a primary will be the two candidates in the run off. Their term is five years. The territorial council takes over the role of the former municipal council as well as certain regional and departmental issues. Certain laws can be adapted to the particular needs of the COM. This idea of adaptability does not apply in certain areas such as penal law, monetary and banking law, business law, assurance law, and social laws. The COM will benefit from a transfer of competence from the federal government in terms of local taxes, work permist for foreigners, and tourism, for example, and after 2012 in the areas of urbanism and energy, adapted to its specific needs.
The president of the territorial council has the powers of a mayor, as well as the president of a regional and departmental council. In contrast to a mayor, whose job finishes at the end of his term or if he resigns, the president of the territorial council can be removed by the vote of at least one-third of the members of the council.
The executive council also represents the opposition and is composed of seven members elected from within the territorial council: the president, four vice-presidents, and two council members.
The economic, social, and cultural council, which offers participation to non-political figures on the island, acts in an advisory capacity. They must be consulted on all economic, social, cultural, and budgetary actions.
The election of the new council must take place in the six months following the adoption of these laws. In light of a busy spring with French presidential and legislative elections on the calendar, local officials hope for confirmation of local elections on July 1 and 8.
CLE Organizes Informational Meetings
On March 3 and 10, members of the Economic Liaison Committee (CLE) organized discussions to share information about the application of the new laws. The first was led by Serge Sur, professor of international law, Daniel Guttman professor of international and fiscal law, and André Roux, professor of public law. The following Saturday, the director of the
research firm IPSOS and the general manager of the agency Robinson/BBDO presented the results of studies requested by the CLE on the theme of tourism development and the image of Saint Barth. The conclusions show that the tourism clientele has a good image of the island where they come for the tranquility, safety, fine dining, and hotel services. As a destination, St. Barth remains somewhat unknown, partly due to the lack of a public communication campaign, and the lack of a official Web site, an imperative in the 21st century for effective marketing and communication.
New Prefect Named For The Northern Islands
A month full of political change was capped by the visit of Dominique Lacroix (shown here with mayor Bruno Magras), named the new prefect for the Northern Islands on March 7. He began his post on March 21 in St. Martin and the next day in St. Barth where he places a wreath at the war memorial in Gustavia as is traditional, followed by a cocktail party at City Hall. During his speech, the new prefect, placed under the authority of the prefect in Guadeloupe, explained that the goal of his position was to help move the center of decision making relative to the responsibilities of the state toward the collectivity, while indicating that certain synergies with Guadeloupe will remain in place, as long as it took to develop the same expertise in administrative and technical matters. He indicated the government's desire to establish some of these services in St. Martin with the creation of a new court, and three posts for magistrates, a substitute, a vice-president, a judge, the construction of an administrative retention center and the appointment of a national educational inspector