1815 the Kingdom of the Netherlands is founded. Before this, it was part of Napoleon’s French Empire.
1834 Ministry of Colonial Affairs is established. Although a similar institute already existed under the trade company Dutch West India Company.
1949 Formal decolonization within the kingdom commences after decades of decolonial struggle and the tremor of World War II. The Dutch state agrees to release a first colony in the East Indies, currently known as Indonesia. Surinam follows in 1975.
1954 The first statute, or decree of the Kingdom of the Netherlands signed by queen Juliana, as to initiate the decolonization process for the Caribbean territories.
1986 Aruba gains status aparte.
1993 The Future Conference takes place, autonomy is discussed between governing representatives of the different islands and the Netherlands.
2000-2005 Referenda on possible outcomes of a different Kingdom structure.
2006 Roundtable conferences among goverments.
2007-2009 Futher negotiations, mainly focused on Curacao and Sint Maarten’s autonomous status.
2010 Renewal of the statue through constitutional changes: Antilles are officially dismantled and Sint Maarten and Curacao gain autonomony. Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius are considered too small to self-govern and become integrated into the Dutch state.
What adjustments were made to the 2010 version? For one, in the 2010 a statement was added to apply to the new context and less inequal relations. It states that “rules may be laid down and other specific measures may be introduced for these islands, in view of their economic and social circumstances, their substantial distance from the Netherlands in Europe, their island character, small size and population, their geographic location, their climate and other factors that distinguish them from the Netherlands in Europe” (article 1.2). However, it fails to describe how and by whom these rules are laid down. Two more details are relevant to conside here.
Article 3 states that affairs should be handled without prejudice. What is the protocol to safeguard the needed obejectivity? This can be considered a challenge even in the most unruffled communities.
It is also noteworthy that the decree specifically adresses the island territories Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten. Therefore one wonder how its rules do or do not apply to the Dutch state as an entity. And to what extent are the BES islands included in these considerations? As mentioned before, the Dutch state is the only fully independent entity and its only member to act in the capacity of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Was the Dutch state never part of the imagination of the Kingdom of the Netherlands when the decree was written, or is it a seperate category? Is the twenty page document a realistic enough take on how to understand and live together in what is in fact an transnational collective of seven territories spread across the Atlantic with seventeen million citizens and four languages?
A version of this post was previously featured in the july 2019 issue of the newsletter of the Caribbean Studies Association.