July 7, 2004 - #24
The French Overseas Minister and a delegation of senators make visits to Saint-Barth
On Wednesday, June 30, a delegation of French senators from the “Democratic and Social European Assembly (RSDE)” spent the morning on the island of Saint-Barth. Jacques Pelletier, senator from Aisne and president of the RDSE, and Gilbert Barbier, senator from the Jura, accompanied Dominique Larifla, senator from Guadeloupe, and Rodolphe Désiré, senator from Martinique, whose terms will soon come to an end. The senators from metropolitan France, here in support of their colleagues from Guadeloupe and Martinique, met with the presidents of the departmental and regional councils before spending time in the Northern Islands. After meeting with Bruno Magras and the island’s deputy mayors, the senators flew over to Saint-Martin. The major topic of discussion was the political evolution of the Northern Islands. Jacques Pelletier is convinced that Saint-Barth and Saint-Martin should have special judicial status. He declared that he will encourage the legal commission in the Senate (charged with studying the new laws for the new overseas collectivities) to come to the islands and see for themselves.
There were more than 200 people at the airport on Saturday, July 3 to welcome Brigitte Giradin, the French Overseas Minister. For the event, the airport was specially decorated with French flags. Giradin arrived from Saint-Martin in a Puma, or French army helicopter, in the company of Lucette Michaud-Chevry and Dominique Vian, the Prefect of Guadeloupe. The minister’s delegation also Hélène Camouilly, who is in charge of communication, and Stéphane Diémert, councilor for judicial affairs at the Overseas ministry. They had arrived from Paris on July 1 to meet with political authorities in Saint-Martin and present them with a timeline for the eventual evolution of their island.
Welcomed in Saint-Barth by Bruno Magras and the deputy mayors, the Minister was surrounded by the crowd. Upon leaving the airport, she placed a wreath at the war memorial in Gustavia before heading to Town Hall for a closed-door session with the municipal council. Yet the council chamber door remained open during the speeches made Brigitte Girardin and Bruno Magras, and their words were transmitted on the airwaves of Radio Saint-Barth. Brigitte Girardin announced that the laws for the new Overseas Collectivity of Saint-Barth should be presented to the local officials for their opinion before the end of the year. This will be a document based on the text adopted by the municipal council.
After being examined by a Council of State in France, the body of laws will be judged by the Council of Ministers. They will then be discussed and accepted by the National Assembly before being presented to the Senate, then to the experts of the Constitutional Council. Unless the Parliament falls behind, the Minister hopes that the laws for Saint-Barth are passed by spring 2005 at the latest, allowing the new collectivity to be put into place before next summer.
In her speech, Brigitte Girardin skirted the tax situation by stating, “in no sense does the transfer of fiscal responsibility to the local authorities mean that there will be any kind of fiscal paradise. The State retains control of all banking operations and will control all infractions without which there cannot be a fiscal paradise. International treaties concerning the laundering of funds will continue to be applied, as in the rest of the European Union. The power given to the new collectivity to create its proper finances and taxes will function only with solid respect for the constitution, and the fiscal agreement made with the government to avoid all forms of evasion. The collectivity will have the means necessary to make this happen.”
After lunch at the Isle de France, the Mayor accompanied the Minister to her hotel, the Guanahani, stopping at the weather station above Gustavia and to see the hand-made straw hats in Corossol. At 7:00pm, Brigitte Girardin returned to Town Hall for a cocktail reception open to the island’s population. When she arrived, the Bons Chœurs choir sang the Hymn to Saint-Barthélemy. Brigitte Girardin then spoke with many different people, listening carefully to what they had to say.
On Sunday, she spent a private day on a boat with a picnic at Colombier. The outing was cut short by the arrival of a rainstorm that caused the boat to return to the dock sooner than planned.
At 10:30am Monday morning, Giradin met with the island’s business people at the Guanahani, followed by lunch at the hotel before catching her plane back to Paris by way of Saint-Martin.
More to come