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Guadeloupe, also called Gwada by the locals, is geographically an archipelago, politically a French overseas territory, an overseas department and a region consisting of a group of islands of the Lesser Antilles within the islands above the wind in the Caribbean.

Guadeloupe is an (almost) fully integrated part of the French state and thus also part of the European Union. However, Guadeloupe does not belong to the VAT Union of the EU. Together with Martinique, Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin, it forms the French Antilles.


South of Guadeloupe there is the island Dominica, northwest the island Montserrat and northeast the island Antigua, which belongs to the island state Antigua and Barbuda. About 250 km to the west is the uninhabited Venezuelan island of Aves.

Guadeloupe consists of six inhabited and other small uninhabited islands.

The two main islands are Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, which are separated from each other only by the narrow Rivière Salée, which is about 50 m wide at its narrowest point. The inhabited islands of Marie-Galante and La Désirade, the two small, uninhabited Îles de la Petite Terre and the Îles des Saintes archipelago, which comprises two inhabited islands and seven uninhabited islands, are in close proximity.

Until 2007, the island of Saint-Barthélemy and the French part of the island of Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten belonged to Guadeloupe as the Arrondissement Saint-Martin-Saint-Barthélemy. These are located about 200 km north of the main islands. In February 2007, the two areas of Guadeloupe were separated and each upgraded to a separate overseas territorial entity (Collectivité d’outre-mer).

Grande-Terre is relatively flat and consists mainly of limestone, Basse-Terre is of volcanic origin with mountains inland, including the highest mountain of the Lesser Antilles, the volcano La Soufrière (1,467 m above sea level). Most of the other island is also of volcanic origin.

The land area (1628 km²) consists of 14 % cultivated land, 4 % permanent crops, 14 % grazing land and 39 % woodland, together 71 %. The coastline is 306 km long.


The islands form a département with the département number 971 and with the introduction of the regions as local authorities in France through the decentralisation laws in 1982, Guadeloupe, like the other overseas départements, also received the status of a separate region of France.

Guadeloupe, like all the other départements, is represented in the French legislature by representatives of its people and municipalities. It has four seats in the National Assembly and two in the Senate. Like the other four French overseas departments, Guadeloupe is part of the European Union.

All French laws apply in Guadeloupe. However, according to Article 73 of the French Constitution, local specificities must be taken into account.

As in the other overseas departments and regions, the region and the département are separate territorial authorities which exercise their respective powers independently of each other. The Regional Council (Conseil régional) with 41 members and the Départementrat (Conseil départemental) with 42 members exist in parallel. The central government is represented by the prefect for its areas of responsibility.

The President of the Regional Council is Ary Chalys and the President of the Département Council is Josette Borel-Lincertin.


As a fully integrated part of France, Guadeloupe is also part of the European Union’s internal market and uses the euro as its legal tender, as is the case in France.

Guadeloupe is dependent on imports from metropolitan France to meet its consumer goods needs and on subsidies from the French State to finance public expenditure. Due to this support, GDP per capita is US$9,000, which is higher than on most of the independent neighbouring islands.

The total number of workers is about 130,000, the unemployment rate 27.8%. This is particularly high among young Guadeloupians. In comparison with the GDP of the European Union expressed in purchasing power standards, Guadeloupe achieved an index of 68.4 in 2006 (EU-27 = 100).

Branches of trades

The main branches of the economy are agriculture, tourism, light industry and services. Tourism is a key branch of the economy. Most holidaymakers come from France, with an increasing number of cruise ships visiting the islands.

The main agricultural products of Guadeloupe are sugar cane (for the production of cane sugar and rum) and bananas. Other agricultural products of the islands are tropical fruits and vegetables, cattle, pigs and goats. Sugar cane, the traditional main crop of the island, is slowly being replaced by other products, mainly bananas, eggplants and flowers. Other vegetables and root crops are grown for local consumption. Nevertheless, Guadeloupe is dependent on imported food, mainly from France.

Light industry is characterised by sugar and rum production. There is also construction and cement production. Most of the goods manufactured in the factory and fuel are imported.

Agricultural products are the main export goods of Guadeloupe. Bananas account for about 50% of the annual export income, sugar and rum are also exported. Of the exported goods, 60% go to European France, 18% to Martinique and 4% to the USA.

The main imports are food, fuel, cars and other consumer goods, raw materials for the construction industry. 63% of the imported goods come from France, 4% from Germany, 3% from the USA, 2% from Japan and 2% from the (former) Netherlands Antilles.