A particular element of confusion appears to be rooted in the Statute for the Kingdom of the Netherlands: an agreement between the countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a legal document manifested in 1954, originally to initiate the decolonization process for the Dutch Caribbean territories. Initially the statute referred to the relationship between the Dutch state, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles (then composed as one state combining Curacao, Aruba, Bonaire, Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius). When the Dutch Antilles dismantled in 2010 and Sint Maarten and Curacao gained status aparte, the statute was renewed. The composition of the countries within the kingdom had thus changed, but the content of the statute overall remained and its function remains the same: to grant all member countries equivalent positions within the kingdom.[i] There has been much debate on the effacy of this renewal process and the strategies that have been applied since 2010. There is recurring disagreement regarding the question of autonomy of the different islands.
The statute’s liability is legally superior to that of the varying constitutions of its member countries. The document refers to legislature of the Kingdom territories and aims to address all states within the kingdom of the Netherlands. However, the statute is largely based on and refers to the Dutch Constitution. In effect pointing to similar goverment institutions for the management of the Netherlands, as well general Kingdom affairs. For example, in the context of the statute, the Dutch state is the only independent entity and its only member to act in the capacity of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. While the autonomous islands are considered seperate nations within the Kingdom constellation, the Dutch state, as the primary office representing the Kingdom through the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relation (abbreviated as BZK), has final authority over the island territories and can place them under financial, legal or administrative supervision when deemed necessary.[ii] Consequently, the statute might been understood as an adapted version of the Dutch Constititution, explicitly affixed to address the overseas territories within the Kingdom In practice, the island goverments are thus subjected to the authority of BZK secretaries, hence the confusions and frustration on different ends. In theory the same accounts for governmental institutions on the Dutch side. However, the question remains to what extent are they held to similar standards? And to what extent would that standard be possible for all territories? In the coming months I will further explore this question.
Source tba: BZK4, BZK5
[ii] Source tba: BZK7 (statuut)
A version of this post was previously featured in the june 2019 newsletter of the Caribbean studies Association.