The last step of the "continuous dissolution" of the Dutch Kingdom, namely the complete independence of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, is not far off, if things progress the way they are now, according to Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Piet Hein Donner.
Donner made his remarkable statement at a gathering of the Antillean Network Association VAN in Amsterdam Friday evening. Donner, who was the main speaker at the event that kicked off a weekend of activities themed "The Islands Adrift," explained that the process of continuous dissolution actually started in 1948.
The Round Table Conference in that year kicked off a process that led to Suriname's independence and a status apart for Aruba. With the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles in October last year the last but one step was taken in the process of continuous dissolution.
"Only one step remains: the dissolution of the Kingdom ties and the complete independence of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten. The Netherlands would remain a Caribbean country, the consequence of the decision to take up Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba into the Dutch Constellation. And that step is not too far if we continue in this manner," said Donner, who made clear that the Netherlands cannot take that step.
Donner's speech was remarkable because it was the first time that he openly spoke about the future of the Kingdom, indirectly giving his vision on the Kingdom, a position that the Dutch Second Chamber has been asking for several times. The Dutch Government is currently preparing an official vision on the Kingdom.
The fact that the question is posed whether the Kingdom has a shared future shows that this is not the case, said Donner. "We are not busy either with the question whether the provinces have a shared future."
Yet, the Netherlands has never really answered the question what it wants for the Kingdom. "The Kingdom was just there. It was the Netherlands and the former colonies were a Dutch responsibility. The Netherlands could and cannot unilaterally make them independent," he said.
Donner said the Kingdom was more than a commonwealth of independent states. The Kingdom consists of the countries of the Kingdom that look after their own affairs, care for the interests of the Kingdom based on equality and offer each other mutual assistance.
"But it concerns the past as long as the Kingdom is merely a legal tie and political guarantee. Than the Kingdom is only a result of responsibility and accountability of the Netherlands as a former colonial power. We are busy with the past as long as we only deal with the responsibilities and restrictions of the Kingdom. We are talking about the future when we speak of the possibilities of the Kingdom," said Donner.
The transformation of October 10, 2010 was especially a reaction to grievances and problems of the past. It wasn't based on a joint vision on a positive filling in and ambitions of the new situation. "That is worrisome because the Kingdom is not a goal on its own. Than we are busy with a renovation of a constellation of which we don't know whether it is worth the while to maintain it."
Donner said it was "high time" that the partners asked themselves the question what they wanted for the Kingdom. "We can continue by reproaching each other in a loud voice, but it will only restrict the options and speed up the moment of a definite bearing up," he said.
The Minister said there were three scenarios for the Kingdom. The first scenario was to continue on the current path whereby each of the countries would go their own way without making something good of the relations and with the Kingdom relations being little more than a legal tie.
Under the first option the Kingdom would mostly have a guarantee function with the Netherlands being responsible for integer and proper governments, a solid structure of law and order and the protection of human rights. "The Netherlands would be seen as the police officer who looks after law and order in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom," he said.
In the second scenario, partners would find a basis of joint interests and of own interests which are strengthened by cooperation. The third scenario is that the countries mostly focus on their own individual interests but that the cooperation strengthens their relation.
Donner didn't indicate a preference of any of the three scenarios, since it concerned a decision of all Kingdom partners. He said the "love and tie should come from two sides and has to be stable."
The Netherlands wants to keep the ties with the other countries of the Kingdom because it has an interest in maintaining and strengthening the Kingdom. He said it was a "misunderstanding" that especially Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten had an interest in continuing the current relations and the Netherlands didn't.
He pointed out that the Netherlands had a direct interest in stability and prosperity of the Dutch "public entities" Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba which can serve as a "showcase" for the Dutch and European private sector in its trade relations with South America. Furthermore, the strategic location of the Dutch Caribbean islands make them an important partner in the fight against organised crime in the region.
Donner said there was much to gain from good and close ties in the Kingdom. A prerequisite, however, is that each country sees it as its own interest and responsibility to make sure that there is proper governance, healthy government finances, integrity, justice and safety for its inhabitants.
"Own interest because citizens want to be governed in a proper, trustworthy and integer manner. Own interest also because legal security, safety and proper governance play a key role in the decision of companies to set up a business in a country," stated Donner.