President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Martinique and Guadeloupe as part of a drive to heal ties with the overseas departments (DOM) where general strikes and violent protests over the high cost of living and other economic problems paralyzed the islands earlier this year. Martinique and Guadeloupe get financial support from mainland France but also suffer serious economic problems, including higher jobless rates and prices than other parts of the country.
Speaking Thursday in Fort de France, where he led the inauguration the city’s new Aimé Césaire airport, Sarkozy said he was “convinced the status quo is not possible,” and that he intended “to consult the people of Martinique on the institutional evolution of their territory.” On Friday, he offered the people of Martinique the freedom to determine the right level of autonomy but explained that the debate would not be about independence: “This is not about surreptitiously organizing any kind of breakaway from the republic. So long as I am president of the republic, there will be no question of independence for Martinique, of its separation from France [. . .]. Martinique is French and it will remain French, first because it wants to, but also because France wants it to. France wouldn’t be France without Martinique.”
Elected officials in Martinique voted at a congress on June 19 for next year’s regional elections to be delayed, to allow for the holding of a popular vote on the evolution of the island’s status. Sarkozy said the details of the vote would be decided by October, in agreement with officials in Martinique.
For full articles, see http://www.montrealgazette.com/Business/Sarkozy+promises+Martinique+autonomy+vote/1736283/story.html and http://www.caribbeannetnews.com/news-17354–34-34–.html. Photo of Sarkozy’s “air kiss” from the Montreal Gazette.