France and Suriname

Presentation

Political relations

  • French Ambassador to Suriname: Mr Antoine Joly (since January 2017)
  • Suriname Ambassador in France: Mr Reggy Martiales Nelson (since June 2015)

France and Suriname share a river border of 520km along the Maroni river. The Surinamese civil war led to an influx of refugees from Suriname to French Guiana. These were essentially Maroons from the inner regions, thousands of whom remained in Guiana after the end of hostilities. Since the border re-opened in December 1991, traditional trade exchanges have been able to resume. Suriname has expressed its wish to strengthen relations with France as shown by the decision to open an embassy in Paris in 2011. Both countries’ goal is to limit the cross-border clandestine economy and cross-border trafficking (gold panning, drugs, etc.) and to regulate the considerable illegal immigration flow into Guiana from Suriname, while fostering the development of trade and cultural and human exchanges.

A bilateral re-admission agreement for illegal immigrants was signed on 30 November 2004 and has yet to be ratified by Suriname.

This is also true of the cross-border police cooperation agreement signed on 29 June 2006 and ratified by France in 2008, but not by Suriname. However, on the ground cooperation is running encouragingly on a de facto basis. Joint river and sea military patrols have been implemented in accordance with an intergovernmental agreement of September 2003.

There is a border dispute concerning a triangular forest area of about 3,000 km² between the Marouini and Litani rivers, incorporated into the Guiana Amazonian Park which was created in 2007. The delimitation of the maritime border was long contentious too, but was the subject of fruitful negotiations in 2014-2015 which are expected to conclude soon.

The first – and so far, only – high-level bilateral consultations were held in Paramaribo in November 2009. A “River Council”, which was established on that occasion, brings together representatives of administrations and local elected representatives to discuss issues of common interest.

Visits

French visits to Suriname:

  • 10-11 November 2004: Mr Xavier Darcos, Minister Delegate for Cooperation, Development and Francophonie.
    23 November 2004: Mr Léon Bertrand, Minister Delegate for Tourism (and Mayor of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni).
  • 24 November 2009, for the first meeting of the Mixed Commission: Ms Chantal Berthelot, National Assembly Deputy of the second constituency of Guiana and Chair of the France-Suriname Friendship Group at the National Assembly; Mr Léon Bertrand, former Minister, Mayor of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni and President of the local Community of Municipalities.
  • 12 August 2010, for the swearing-in ceremony: Mr Rodolphe Alexandre, President of the Region of Guiana; Mr Alain Tien-Liong, President of the Departmental Council.
  • 13-14 November 2012: Mr Simon Sutour, Chair of the European Affairs Committee of the Senate, and Mr Georges Parient, Deputy Chair.

Surinamese visits to France:

  • 30 November - 1 December 2004, Paris: Ms Maria Levens, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Meetings with Mr Renaud Muselier, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and Ms Brigitte Girardin, Minister for Overseas France.
  • 29 June 2006, Guiana: Mr Chandrikapersad Santokhi, Minister of Justice and Police. Meeting with Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, Ministre d’État, Minister of the Interior and Town and Country Planning. Signature of a cross-border cooperation agreement.
  • 6 November 2006, Paris: Mr Kermechend Raghoebarsing, Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries. Meeting with Mr Dominique Bussereau, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
  • 24-27 October 2011, Paris: Mr Jim Hok, Minister of Natural Resources, for the opening of the Embassy of Suriname in Paris.

Economic relations

France has a small economic presence in neighbouring Suriname. It is the country’s fourth-largest European supplier (0.9% market share) behind the Netherlands (15.6%), Germany (1.8%) and the United Kingdom (1.4%). French operators are present in the banana value chain (provision of in-vitro plants by the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), irrigation equipment, technical assistance, sales and transport to Europe using the maritime company CMA-CGM). The Chambers of Commerce of Suriname and Guiana meet annually.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Suriname was incorporated into the Priority Solidarity Zone in 1999. Cooperation with Suriname is mainly led by the Agence Française de Développement or the FFEM (French Facility for Global Environment). The AFD has given two concessional loans over the last few years: €25 million to restore a section of the road between Paramaribo and Albina, €15 million to build a hospital in Albina, as well as a technical assistance component in the form of a subsidy of €1.1 million.

Lastly, the embassy in Paramaribo has been implementing bilateral credit to support the Alliance Française in the capital. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Operational Programmes “Caribbean” and “Amazonia” enable the Regional Council of French Guiana to involve Suriname in projects of common interest.

Other cooperation

Bilateral military cooperation (training, joint exercises, logistical support) also supports cross-border security and capacity building to support the sovereignty of Suriname’s government. Jointly combatting illegal fishing is producing promising results but which have room for improvement, particularly since the creation of a coastguards corps in Suriname which carries out joint patrols with the French armed forces.

Updated: 19 September 2017

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