photo: Binnenhof The Hague

THE HAGUE  – Several Dutch members of Parliament together with their delegations flew to the islands last week for meetings with their Caribbean counterparts. Are such work trips actually useful? According to senators, these trips cannot be considered as ‘jaunts’.

Over the past several months it had been suggested that well-known party leaders in the Netherlands would rather not visit the islands, due to the perception this creates of ‘another jaunt to the Caribbean’.

According to senators however, this perception is inaccurate. “You wake up at six in the morning and go to bed late in the evening after meetings and consultations with experts”, says senator Ria Oomen (CDA). “It’s hard work.”

Several members of Parliament think that the trips should last longer, like the recent one to Curaçao and Bonaire. “Spending nine days on the island is much better than planning several short trips”, according to Oomen. She’s been a senator for about five years.

Another debate about poverty
This trip was the first work trip to the islands for D66-senator Carla Moonen, who’s been on the job for six months. The delegation, consisting of both MP’s and senators, started out on Bonaire, where they visited neighborhoods in pairs, to experience for themselves what the consequences of poverty are.

“Now that I’ve visited families living in poverty, I have a better view of the situation than what is portrayed by the media or what I hear through word of mouth. Poverty truly exists there”, says Moonen (D66).

The debate about poverty will happen shortly. CDA, D66, GroenLinks, and SP have invited the responsible state secretary, Tamara van Ark (Social Affairs), to the Senate once more.

According to Moonen visiting the islands makes a difference in wanting to find a solution for the problems on the islands. “After such a visit, I can conduct a better debate with the state secretary. That’s our role as Parliament.”

Venezuelan refugees
Another point of contention remains the Venezuelan refugee crisis on the islands. The delegation visited the detention facilities on Curaçao where refugees are held, and experienced them first hand.

Some of the Venezuelans are detained there for weeks on end, receive legal documentation in Dutch, and the medical facilities are not up to par.

“We had a lot of questions and the Curaçaoan Parliamentarians were also present”, says Moonen (D66). “One of the advantages is that it makes it easier to discuss these topics immediately. You can notice that in agreements that were made.”

More collaboration needed
When can the biennial Interparlementair Koninkrijksoverleg (Ipko) be called a success? That’s not only when the agreements are followed, according to CDA-senator Ria Oomen.

A lot of political parties on the islands blame the Netherlands for a lot of things, is what Oomen notices. “This does not foster the success of the Kingdom.”

“I have a feeling that they’re trying to win votes by doing this. They forget to mention that the Netherlands provides a lot of financial support.”

“We could do a lot more together. For example with regards to education and finance. How do you handle your income? And what can we learn from each other? The willingness to do that exists in the Netherlands”, according to Oomen (CDA).

“I feel like they want to do everything by themselves on the island. It’s nice to have a list of agreements. But it’s only when politicians try to make a success of the Constitution, that it will be successful. And that won’t happen from one day to the next.”