16 December 2014

Sint Eustatius political status referendum set for December 17

Special to OTR

Autonomous country status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, partial integration (public entity) or full integration  into Holland, or independence? 

At the October 2010 dismantling of the former Netherlands Antilles of which Sint Eustatius (Statia) was a part, the two more populated islands of Curacao and Sint Maarten attained separate country status within the Kingdom of the Netherlands consistent with earlier referenda and subsequent negotiations with the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

Meanwhile, the smaller islands of Saba and Bonaire had chosen a form of “direct ties” to the Kingdom in their respective referenda, resulting in a form of partial integration with Holland as one of the four countries of the Kingdom. The fifth, Sint Eustatius (Statia) had voted in its 2005 referendum  to remain as part of the autonomous country of the Netherlands Antilles. But since all od the islands except Statia had chosen to end that multi-island governance arrangement, the prevailing Statia leadershidecided to accept the same status of “direct ties” as had its smaller island counterparts. 

After four years of the emergence of the “public entity status” of partil integration, and amid increasing public support for a referendum on political status alternatives, the Statian leadership decided to consult its people on whether to confirm the present status, or whether a new political direction should be followed. 

The December 17th referendum will serve as the opportunity to re-visit whether the current status is what the people actually desire, or whether an alternative option would be a better path going forward. Once an option is chosen, Statia's leadership would begin negotiations with the Kingdom on how to make the chosen option a reality. 

An electoral observation team from the United Nations Electoral Affairs Division of the Department of Political Affairs is monitoring the vote. 


Autonomy within the Kingdom

Statia could choose an autonomous status within the Kingdom. This is the status that the majority of the people voted for in the referendum of 2005. However that choice was for autonomy was together with Saba, Bonaire, Sint Maarten, and Curacao as the multi-island Netherlands Antilles. This became moot when the other four islands voted to effectively dismantle the multi-island grouping.

The separate autonomous country status available for Statia in the 2014 referendum is to be an autonomous country in its own right within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, like Curacao and Sint Maarten. As an autonomous country, Statia would have a political relationship with the Kingdom Government, and not just with one of its countries (Holland). The laws of Holland would not be applied to an autonomous Statia, and the Kingdom laws would be applied only after consultation with the Statia political leadership. 

An autonomous Statia would become one of the several autonomous countries of the Kingdom, like Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten, with its own constitution and laws. Unlike the present public entity status, there would be a representative known as the Minister Plenipotentiary in the Kingdom Parliament to speak on behalf of Statian interests. 

Autonomy would provide the distinct international personality for Statia to become associate members or observers to regional organizations such as The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Association of Caribbean States, and various United Nations specialized agencies. Statia would also maintain its Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) status with the European Union.  

Autonomy would allow for expanded trade and transportation links with neighboring countries such as Saint Kitts and others throughout the region. This would provide additional trade and business options, and provide for an expanded market for Statia goods and services. Under the autonomous status, the ownership and control of the natural resources would be the subject of negotiations. 

“Public Entity” Status (status quo) 

St. Eustatius could remain in the current status of partial integration as a public entity of Holland, with citizenship of the Kingdom, and could negotiate for potential improvements for the political relationship to be more balanced since the present situation allows for laws and regulations to be applied to Statia without consent. At the same time, there is no political representation for Statia in Holland which would give Statians a voice in how these laws and regulations are applied. Any changes recommended to the public entity status would have to be agreed by Holland. A five-year evaluation is  currently underway by the Kingdom to determine how the public entity status is functioning. 

Full Integration

Statia could also move from the present partial integration to full integration similar in scope to what French St. Martin had within the French Republic until moving to an autonomous collectivity status in 2007. This status had provided French St. Martiners with full political, economic and social rights in the French system within the framework of the multi-island French overseas department status. 

A fully integrated status for Statia would provide for full rights in Holland, while Statia may also modify its present “Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)” status with the European Union (EU) to that of an EU Outermost Region (OR). 

Full integration would require the approval of Holland since it would have to accept Statia under equal political, economic and social terms. Full integration would also require Statia to take on a fuller set of responsibilities, such as increased taxes and other obligations, but there would also be the right to vote in the full range of Dutch elections provided the necessary changes are made to the Dutch Constitution. 


Statia under independence would provide for full internal self-government. It would allow the freedom to develop its own system of government with its own constitution. It would also permit full membership in regional organizations, and full membership in the United Nations. Independence in the 21st Century is different than in the past, as today's world is much more inter-dependent. This is especially important for countries with a small land mass and small population like Statia. 

An independent Statia would rely on its links with the region and the wider world to assist its development process through participation in various development banks in the Caribbean and global development institutions. An independent Statia would challenge the people to develop the type of economy of their choosing, and to create opportunities for earning revenue to fund the needs of the society.

An independent Statia could maintain the present use of the United States dollar as its official currrency, adopt another international currency like the Euro or even the Eastern Caribbean dollar, or create its own currency. As an independent country, Statia would own and control its natural resources, including the marine resources of the exclusive economic zone. 

An independent Statia, as the other two political status options of integration or autonomy, would not be achieved overnight. Independence would require a transition period where significant assistance would come from the Kingdom Government, as well as from the United Nations and other international bodies to help build the capacity of the people of Statia to run their own affairs, and to work closely with the international community of nations.




The Europe Union citizenship would be retained.

Public Entity
The Europe Union citizenship would be retained.

The Europe Union citizenship would be retained.

A separate Statia citizenship would be created with possible preferential provisions for access to the Caribbean, Europe and North America.



Integration does not provide for political representation in Holland. An enhanced integration could provide for representation under changes to the Dutch constitution.

Public Entity
Public Entity does not provide for political representation in Holland. An enhanced integration could provide for representation under changes to the Dutch constitution.

The autonomous country status provides for a minister plenipotentiary in the Second Chamber in the Parliament of the Kingdom.

Statia would be represented by an Ambassador with full diplomatic privileges and immunities.


Integrated Statia would not have its own constitution but would subsumed under the Constitution of Holland.

Public Entity
Public Entity would not have its own constitution but would subsumed
 under the Constitution of Holland.

An autonomous Statia would have its own constitution adopted by the people for the exercise of all powers not under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom Government and the Kingdom Charter.

An independent Statia would have its own constitution adopted by the people under no limitation of the Kingdom Charter.


Under integration, laws and treaties can be applied without the consent of, or consultation with Statia. An enhanced public entity status, subject to negotiation, may provide for a measure of consultation.

Public Entity
Public Entity, laws and treaties can be applied without the consent of, or consultation with Statia. An enhanced public entity status, subject to negotiation, may provide for a measure of consultation

Under autonomy, Statia would consult with the Kingdom Government through its minister plenipotentiary in the Netherlands on the applicability of laws and treaties.


As an independent country, no laws or treaties could be applied, but agreements could be entered into by Statia with the Kingdom and other countries.

Economic circumstances would also be impacted by the various political status options including such areas as currency, trade and international commerce, ownership of natural resources, and other areas.

In the selection of the official currency, the partially-integrated public entity status, if enhanced, could retain the existing flexibility in which official currency could be used, with the ultimate determination made by the Kingdom. Full integration might require the adoption of the Euro as in the case of the French departments of Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guiana. Under an autonomous status, or independence, Statia could create its own currency as was done with respect to the Netherlands Antilles Guilder, or adopt an international currency like the U.S. Dollar as is being contemplated by the autonomous country of Sint Maarten. 

In the area of international trade and commerce, full integration would not provide the sufficient international personality for Statia to engage in international trade without the consent of the Kingdom. An enhanced public entity status may provide a limited competency at the direction of the Kingdom Government. 

An autonomous Statia, on the other hand, could conduct some international trade within the parameters of overall Dutch trade policy, and would be eligible to participate in relevant  international trading regimes. An independent Statia would be able to trade freely and to enter into global and regional trade agreements independently.  

A fully-integrated Statia would find the ownership and control of natural resources, including marine resources, solely under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom. An enhanced public entity status would not likely result in any change in this ownership. An autonomous Statia may find scope for negotiation on this resource ownership under powers mutually agreed, while independence would bring the ownership and control of  these resource solely within the realm of an Independent state of Sint Eustatius.