photo: Tweede Kamer

DEN HAAG – For the first time since 2010, following the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles, a State Secretary will see over Kingdom Relations, instead of a Minister. Raymond Knops (46) of the CDA was officially interviewed by Mark Rutte Tuesday evening.

The projected Minister for Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations is Amsterdam’s Deputy Mayor Kajsa Ollongren (D66), however Knops will be tasked with tackling the various issues on the islands.

Big challenges
The reconstruction of St. Maarten, the relief funds and the crisis in neighboring Venezuela that has already been taken care of under leadership of Ronald Plasterk (PvdA) were discussed. The ongoing issues in St. Eustatius are also a concern in The Hague. The island wants to enforce autonomy: a demand that is increasingly being opposed by the Ministry of Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations.

The CDA politician will also inherit books full of observations and recommendations of the Spies committee on inequality between the Caribbean and European Netherlands.

Who is Raymond Knops?
Knops is a former marine and has worked in Public Administration. As Member of Parliament for Defense and Foreign Policy, he is familiar with the islands. He has more than years’ experience in parliament and as a result he is an alderman. Moreover, he has a long list of administrative functions and leadership roles.

“No nonsense, straightforward,” is how former President of Parliament Gerdi Verbeet (PvdA) described Knops during his farewell from the Second Chamber in 2010. He has, “powerful influence, often accommodating with his dry humor”. Verbeet pointed out that his 2005 introductory speech was a lot shorter in comparison to his regular long speeches.

In his last chamber debate with predecessor Plasterk the irritation was noticeable. Knops expressed with his eyes his displeasure in the Rutte II cabinet’s unwillingness to invest in the coast guard on the islands.

In recent months, on behalf of the CDA Knops was involved in the negotiations for the formation of the new Cabinet Rutte III. A CDA spokesperson said currently not comments can be made on Knop’s new role. The cabinet will be sworn in on Thursday, October 26.

Why no Minister?
State Secretaries are assigned to Ministers with the heavy matters, for example ministries that require extra political attention in certain policy areas. A state secretary supports the Minister, but the Minister remains responsible. Both are accountable to Parliament. A Minister receiving assistance in Kingdom Relations is not surprising. During his time in the Rutte-Cabinet II, Plasterk had his hands tied with several key issues. After the devastating Hurricane Irma, this became more evident.