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 520km of border along the river Maroni. This common border brings common interests and challenges as regards development, infrastructure, migration and security. The Maroni region is historically a population basin rather than a tight border. 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 flows have been able to resume. Suriname has expressed the desire to strengthen relations with France, as shown by the decision to open an embassy in Paris in 2011 and the ratification on 26 October 2017 of the police cooperation agreement signed in 2006. France has also expressed strong interest in boosting bilateral relations. This came to fruition in autumn 2017 and was confirmed by the visit to Paris of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Pollack-Beighle. During her visit, she signed, alongside the French Minister for Overseas France, Ms Girardin, the maritime delimitation agreement establishing the border between France and Suriname from the Maroni estuary. The aim for both countries is to work together to diversify their relations, better control migration flows and cross-border trafficking (gold panning, drugs, etc.) while fostering the development of trade and cultural and human exchanges with care for the environment on both banks of the Maroni river.

The first – and so far, only – high-level bilateral consultations were held in Paramaribo in November 2009. A “river council” was established on that occasion, at which representatives of local administrations and elected officials meet to discuss issues of common interest around the management of both banks (upgrading of infrastructure including the international ferry, management of waterfalls, environmental protection and cultural and sporting projects).

Economic relations

France has a small economic presence in it’s neighbour, 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 companies are present in the banana sector (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 shipping 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 (AFD, French Development Agency) and the FFEM (French Global Environment Facility). The AFD has granted two soft loans over the last few years: €25 million to restore a section of the road between Paramaribo and Albina and €15 million to build a hospital in Albina, combined with a technical assistance component in the form of a subsidy of €1.1 million. Lastly, the embassy in Paramaribo has been implementing bilateral funding to support the Alliance Française branch in the capital and promote learning French. The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Operational Programmes “Caribbean” and “Amazonia” enable the French Guiana Regional Council to involve Suriname in projects of common interest.

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: 20 June 2018

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