Your Excellency Governor Holiday,
Madame la Préfète déléguée aux collectivités de Saint-Martin et St Barthélemy,
Honorable President of Parliament,
Honorable Members of Parliament,
Honorable Prime Minister,
Honorable Ministers of Sint Maarten, and members of the Territorial Council of Saint-Martin,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear fellow citizens of Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten,
I am very pleased, proud and touched at the same time to be here with you on this November 11th - a highly symbolic day – to not only celebrate Saint Martin's Day together but also to exercise our duty of remembrance, that which consists of reminding ourselves what has defined our strength, our identity and our unity throughout history.
Happy and proud at the same time, because it is my first St. Martin's Day as President of the Collectivité of Saint-Martin, moved because it is also the first time we are officially united since the disaster that has unsettled our island, on September 6th.
We have just gone through an exceptional dramatic event ... 15 people lost their lives in this disaster, 11 on the French side, 4 on the Dutch side. Allow me to have a special thought for their loved ones and to honor their memory. The loss of these lives taken by the fury of nature, will remain an open wound for our community.
I would like also to have a special word for madam Yvette Fleming Hodge who passed away last Thursday at the age of 101.
She was a great Saint-Martin woman. We can be proud of her commitment, she did such a lot for our community.
Today, as we celebrate Saint-Martin’s Day, I have a special thought for her and the members of her family. We send them all our support. We will never forget madam Fleming.
I also have a thought for our patron saint - St. Martin of Tours - known for offering the lining of his coat to a beggar who was cold. This generosity is remembered today as many of our fellow citizens are going through difficult times.
I would add that November 11th is also the date of the Armistice of the First World War, which we commemorated the 99th anniversary yesterday afternoon in Marigot.
On September 6th, IRMA swept everything, and we know that nothing will ever be the same again.
Saint-Martin has already profoundly changed: the outlines of our landscapes, our habits, our daily functioning, our perception of life ... Everything is new ...
We will have to reinvent together a new ideal for our Friendly Island.
In the past, we have already overcome major hurricanes, LUIS in 95 being thus far the most striking.
But the resilience of the Saint-Martin people is fortunately tenacious. We rebuilt, step by step, what made just a few weeks ago the attractiveness of Saint-Martin.
After LUIS, we were able to recreate this unique atmosphere that made our charm, this art of living in Saint-Martin that exclusively belongs to us.
What more to say about our tourist destination, with its unique sense of hospitality, the beauty of its beaches, and the variety of entertainment sought after and appreciated by all.
IRMA - which is today our new hurricane reference - will not take from our potential, nor from our determination to overcome the daunting challenge ahead.
Like the phoenix, Saint Martin will be reborn from the ruins of IRMA and will shine even more!
Every citizen who makes up this territory must be convinced that we are doing everything in our power to get back on track and begin the long-awaited reconstruction.
Let us draw from our cultural heritage and the richness of our past to rebuild better - and above all - rebuild ourselves better...
Solidarity, hospitality, the sense of sharing are values that are dear to us. They resonate even more strongly today after having just suffered the worst catastrophe in our history.
On this day of celebration, the Treaty of Concordia signed in 1648 is in everyone's mind. I know that there will remain for a long time an inspiration without borders and a shared desire to preserve our achievements and live together.
From then on, North-South cooperation is more than ever an obvious - even imperative - necessity.
Since IRMA, exchanges on social, security, migratory and economic strategy issues - which remain cross-cutting issues - must now be urgently addressed. The future of our island is at stake.
You know my determination to go fast in this area. The creation of a United Congress of Saint Martin / Sint Maarten is a tool I strongly believe in. I know that you too believe in the existence of this new common institution; it now remains to set the legal framework at the national level and I know I can count on your support in my action to accelerate this process.
Ladies and gentlemen, representatives and elected officials of Sint Maarten,
In other words, cooperation should not be just a noble word ... it must take all its dimension by becoming a real political act.
I visited French Guyana in October to attend the 22nd European outermost regions Presidents conference, and I also received a delegation from the European Commission here in St. Martin last Tuesday to obtain additional European funds for reconstruction. Every time, the European authorities confirmed their support for our affected territory.
As part of our transnational cooperation, funds of about 6 million euros are being allocated to the Saint-Martin Reconstruction Axis on the INTERREG Caribbean program, with the possibility to activate other financial levers to glean funds and to setup projects.
There is also an envelop of 40M€ on the Regional European Development Fund. It is necessary to initiate projects on this particular axis.
To continue my action, I will soon be going to Brussels to finalize these exchanges and defend the interests of Saint-Martin.
We have the utmost responsibility to work hand in hand in order to optimally utilize these funds for the reconstruction of our beautiful island but also for our neighbors that compose the Leeward Islands.
Honorable Prime Minister,
It is now - now or never dear William - that we must act so that the North South concord takes on its full meaning.
I sincerely believe that we must put aside the sensitivities and differences of the past to respond effectively and durably to the expectations of our fellow citizens and to the urgent needs of our territory.
There will be no two-speed reconstruction, one at the expense of the other and vice versa.
We have lived for the last 369 years on a territory where the idea of a shared destiny led most often our cultural, educational, political choices ... Yes ... as I like to say, we may have been the forerunners in imagining the European Union before Europe!
In this degraded context, our citizens are waiting for strong decisions and strong actions! They will not accept that we keep beating around the bush for much longer. Particularly on the realization of our joint projects.
As you know, the financial conditions granted by the European Union today are ground breaking and have never been activated before. I‘m thinking of the co-financing rate of 95% for our joint projects. So therefore, it is up to us to make the decisive step towards the realization of our agreements.
My dear friends,
No fight is won alone.
Faced with this blank page, we need more than ever the unity of Saint-Martin, the skills of our two territories, the energy of our vital forces and the talent of our youth to succeed in making of the Saint-Martin of tomorrow.
It is together that we will overcome this ordeal and it is united in adversity that we will revive the economic machine to put our Friendly Island back on the road to prosperity and collective growth.
Happy Saint-Martin's Day! Enjoy this special Day!