Netherlands Vs Former Antilles

Latest Council of State advice: more autonomy for Caribbean countries within the kingdom

The Netherlands must give the Caribbean countries within the kingdom more say in the way in which they themselves implement administrative and financial-economic reforms. That is the core of the advice issued by the Council of State on COHO, the Caribbean Body for Reform and Development.

The advice resembles the criticism made by the countries of Curaçao. Aruba and Sint Maarten themselves have previously given up on the Coho plans. This involves hundreds of millions of euros that the Netherlands wants to invest for the improvement of government, education, health care and the protection of the rule of law.

According to the Council of State, the Netherlands, the most powerful country within the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom, took too little account of the ‘own responsibility’ of the Caribbean countries when drafting the Coho Kingdom Act. Incidentally, the proposal must first receive approval from the parliaments in all Caribbean parts of the country.

Sensitive tap of the fingers
With its advice, the State College gives a sensitive slap on the fingers of outgoing State Secretary for Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops (CDA). The three Caribbean countries have had autonomy since October 2010. But Knops has previously indicated that in the combined crisis of covid and economic downturn the islands have shown politically and administratively that they are currently ‘unable to bear’ this autonomy.

In a response to the advice of the Council of State, which was made public after the Dutch journalist René Zwart of the news site Kingdom Relations published about it, Knops says that ‘the core of the bill’ has remained intact: the Netherlands may impose strict conditions for the provide great financial support. The State Secretary hopes to continue ‘the good cooperation’ with the countries.

Neo-Colonial Ambitions
But the latter is now the question again. Last year, when the impetus to the statute was announced, the governments of the three Caribbean countries were very angry. The Netherlands would put the gun to the chest and, according to some, display neo-colonial ambitions.

Later that criticism was partly silenced. This also has to do with the fact that the countries have their backs to the wall due to the economic crisis and the covid pandemic. Without the many tens of millions of euros in emergency aid and budget support that the Netherlands has already provided, the Caribbean islands would have experienced much greater problems in 2020.

Critical course
But the political tide has now partly turned. The government and especially the parliament of Sint Maarten are now pursuing an increasingly Dutch-critical course and will undoubtedly feel strengthened in this by the advice of the Council of State. In Curaçao, the elections at the end of last week showed a significant victory for the opposition, which has already spoken out against the Dutch Coho plans. Aruba may now also turn against those plans more strongly.

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