DH | Knops: Caribbean Netherlands unlikely to become countries

Raymond Knops (BZK): Caribbean Netherlands islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will at any point become autonomous countries like Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten.

THE HAGUE–Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops considers it highly unlikely that the Caribbean Netherlands islands Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will at any point become autonomous countries like Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten.

Knops stated this in an interview that was published in the magazine of the Association of Dutch Municipalities VNG on Thursday. The three Caribbean Netherlands islands are VNG members.

Asked whether the three islands would be able to attain country status sometime in the future, Knops said they were “too small, even Bonaire.” Linking Bonaire to Curaçao would, theoretically, be a possibility. However, Curaçao is already facing major challenges with a recession and the crisis in Venezuela, he added.

Knops is optimistic about the Caribbean Netherlands and what has been achieved there. “It sounds strange, but I see the issues of the Caribbean Netherlands as straightforward. There are challenges, absolutely, but positive steps have been taken in all areas. I am very optimistic about that,” he said.

In the interview, Knops was asked about the drastic measure that was taken in early 2018 to temporarily dismiss the St. Eustatius government. He explained that this measure was last used in 1951 when the municipal council of Finsterwolde, a small town in Friesland, had a communistic majority and was taking unlawful decisions.

Knops acknowledged that the St. Eustatius decision was a highly extraordinary measure. “The first time I came to the island, I was not received in a friendly way, and it was instantly clear to me how the situation was.”

Finding a joint solution for major issues on the island was not an option.

“Too much had already happened. Every possible instrument had already been deployed, and I did not have the illusion that sending another formal letter would have changed anything,” Knops said.

“Actually, it was very simple: we are doing things to make it better for the people and to have an improved government apparatus. I am glad it is working out and I was happy to see so many people come up to me during my last visit. But I am not doing this alone, and I am only coordinating the efforts. My colleagues who are responsible for housing, social affairs, public health and infrastructure are also working intensively on this.”
Asked when there would be elections in St. Eustatius for a new Island Council, Knops said: “As soon as possible.” He explained that a decision on this would be taken in September. “We have formulated a number of criteria in the area of financial management and a solid administration. But also, the backlog in maintenance of the infrastructure has to be solved. There is a lot to do.”

Knops said that even though the Netherlands temporarily took over the local government, the intention was that St. Eustatius would be in charge of its own affairs again.

“We have to make sure that things don’t return to the former situation. We need to take the Caribbean context into consideration. Implementing a Dutch law model doesn’t work, but there needs to be an assessment structure for something like issuing permits. It can’t be that someone just receives a permit because he or she knows the right person.”

Investing in relations with the Caribbean Netherlands is important, Knops said. “I have noticed that you can only truly build a relationship with the islands when you personally invest in them. That is not through letters or by sending a civil servant. So that is why I often visit the islands.”

Knops said he was taking colleagues with him to the islands so they can see for themselves that these are not regular municipalities and that the Caribbean context is important.

“I want to prevent that the islands are flushed with the bureaucracy of The Hague. That is also why we asked the Council of State to look at the current construction, and to see if things can be done in a smarter, simpler way. I believe it can be done,” he said.

Bron: Daily herald

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