Belgian Minister Councillor visits Cabinet of Minister Plenipotentiary of St. Maarten

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands – On Tuesday, July 19, Director and Acting Director welcomed Minister Councillor at the Belgian Embassy in The Hague Emmanuelle De Foy, to the Cabinet of the Minister Plenipotentiary.

Director of the Cabinet Perry Geerlings gave a brief synopsis of the role St. Maarten plays within the Kingdom since obtaining its autonomous status. He also explained the (supporting) diplomatic role the Cabinet plays here in The Hague and Brussels. “Whilst direct diplomatic ties between Belgium and St. Maarten are initially all coordinated via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands, through our Directorate of Foreign Relations (DBB) diplomatic relations can be established directly for instance via bilateral agreements,” he said.

Geerlings emphasized the special (geographical) position of St. Maarten in the Caribbean basin and “the huge potential we have as a young nation.” It is important for the process of nation building to build international alliances and partnerships going along the way.

The Minister Councillor was very interested in the coexistence of two countries sharing one island. Both the Minister Councillor and the Director agreed that both countries show some similarities, and historically share relations with the Netherlands.

The primary purpose of De Foy’s visit was to seek support of St. Maarten in the upcoming Universal Postal Union (UPU) election. Belgium will be vying for a seat on both the Council of Administration and on the Operations Council of the UPU.

During elections on the UPU Congress, which will be held from September 19 to October 7, in Istanbul, the Belgian government would put forward the following arguments to obtain a seat on both councils.

First, Belgium, although not a member of either Councils, has played an active role during the cycles of the UPU. Belgium was a member of the Postal Operations Council where they chaired the third commission Physical Services and was therefore a member of the Management Committee of the POC.

Should Belgium be given a mandate within the Council of Administration, it would be represented there by it regulatory body, i.e. the Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunications (BIPT).

This will entail that Belgium would at International level, BIBT collaborate with the UPU, the European Council (EC) and the foreign regulatory authorities for postal services, among other areas.

The Netherlands, by means of a Diplomatic Note, has expressed its intent to support Belgium in its quest. Similar meetings as the one held at the Cabinet, were held with representatives in The Hague of Curaçao and Aruba.

In discussing their respective Postal Services, the Director informed De Foy that the postal services in St. Maarten has been developing steadily and innovating, but strengthening of services might be a matter that would be further discussed once Belgium is elected into office.

The Director expressed his vision and hopes to see a tightening of the relationship between Belgium and St. Maarten in areas such as agriculture, where Belgium has an international reputation in the development of tropical edible plant species in Africa and Suriname. The Cabinet of St. Maarten and the Trade Attaché at the Belgian Embassy will continue to discuss this matter.

Geerlings also discussed possibilities of (Higher) education for St. Maarten students in Belgium. Belgium is known for its excellent universities, and their affordable tuition fees. The level of education provided in Belgium is of high standards in comparison to the rest of Europe. The Director said this would further be discussed with the relevant departments in St. Maarten.

De Foy, at the closing of this meeting, expressed her pleasure of being informed about St. Maarten, and looks forward to closer working relations in the various areas discussed.

A follow up meeting to delve more in-depth into the areas of possible collaboration has been set, at which point all parties involved will be informed of any progress made in the forging of alliances.

Gerelings thanked the Minister Councillor for her visit and assured her that the sentiments of her country would be conveyed to the Government of St. Maarten.