The French Caribbean islands of St. Barts and St. Martin officially broke away from Guadeloupe on July 15, becoming Overseas Collectivities, which separated them administratively from Guadeloupe.

St. Barts and St. Martin had been dependencies of Guadeloupe, an overseas Department of France, since 1945.

Both islands still are considered French territories, while Guadeloupe remains an overseas Department of France. Residents of St. Barts and St. Martin approved their new political status in a 2003 referendum, which was officially signed into law on Feb. 21, 2007 by Jacques Chirac, then the president of France.

The two islands now have a freer hand in managing their own affairs, which include creating or changing laws related to local taxes, tourism, public transportation and other issues, according to statements released by the French government.

St. Barts also gained jurisdiction over housing, construction, environmental and energy affairs. St. Martin will gain autonomy in these same areas by 2012.

Each island will be run by a territorial council, headed by a president, and an executive council. The territorial council replaces the municipal council, which had run each island until now.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to[email protected].

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