French Guiana, Where the EU Got Stuck in the Rain Forest

As member of the IFGR Bernd visited French Guiana. Base camp was in Cayenne, from where an excursion took him to Kourou, Europe's launchpad for the Ariane boosters, and to Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni on the bank of the Maroni River, shared with Surinam. French Guiana is a state of the French Republic and thus fully integrated in the administrative framework of the European Union. It is a riverine land north of Brazil in the tropics.

The primary topic of this session was the impact of waterborne diseases. One of our members, Mirdad Kazankji, leads the local Institute Pasteur that is specialised on these issues. We got an insight of thee impact of malaria on the population, especially on the indigenous Amerindians, living upstream in the rain forest. Those people are affected not only by malaria, but also by the Mercury polluted river water due to the illegal gold mining. Additionally, particularly the aboriginal youth suffers from being uprooted from their original culture and confronted with a meaningless future. Many young people commit suicide.

I took away the disturbing impression that the unmitigated application of EU standards to an environment completely different than the European mainland as well as the inflexibility of the French government administering them leads to a devastating failure. The total dependence from the mainland, and Guiana's isolation from its Latin American neighbours leads to the bizarre situation that adequate action is mostly carried by enthusiastic French residents, who are left in the dark by the politicians.