photo: Pixabay

THE HAGUE – Will The Hague provide financial help quickly? A definitive answer is not expected this week, but Friday could turn out to be an important day. A Kingdom Council of Ministers has been penned in for Friday.

The islands need hundreds of millions, but can only turn to The Hague for this. The Dutch government demanded a heavier measure during the past few weeks. Which means: more reforms and that the Netherlands itself can determine where the funds can be allocated on the islands. For a period of seven years.

Will Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten sign on the dotted line? State secretary Knops (Kingdom Relations) wants to know before September. Will steps be taken on Friday, that depends on whether the Netherlands and the islands are willing to negotiate in the upcoming days. The Kingdom Council of Ministers is a formal meeting. Reaching an agreement will happen more quickly if the parties talk to each other beforehand.

‘We’re asking the Netherlands for a dialogue’

“We haven’t talked since the packages were presented”, says prime minister of Curaçao Eugene Rhuggenaath. Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten say that they believe, just as the Netherlands does, that the reforms are needed, but not at the expense of their constitutional rights and autonomy, which the islands fought hard for.

“We’re simply asking the Netherlands for a dialogue. How can we move closer to one another through our vision and theirs, on the basis of content”, Rhuggenaath told the press. “We would also like our own experts to work together with those from the Netherlands.”

Something remarkable has been going on since last weekend. The Rhuggenaath government seems to be more optimistic, now that various Dutch demands and Curaçaoan plans have been compared. “We’re more in line with each other than it seems”, emphasizes prime minister Rhuggenaath. “A lot has already been achieved.”

Will tourism pick up?
Time is ticking for the islands, but also for The Hague if they wish to avoid a further socio-economic crisis. The island-economies mostly rely on tourism and this is especially true for Aruba and Sint Maarten. It remains to be seen whether tourism will pick up in the upcoming months.

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Corona infections in the Caribbean countries
Aruba513 active cases – trending upwards
Sint-Maarten89 active cases, 2 hospitalizations – trending upwards
Curaçao: 1 active case
August 10, 2020

The number of cases on Aruba and Sint Maarten have been increasing exponentially since they reopened their borders with the United States. CDA-MP Chris van Dam asked the inhabitants of the Netherlands to help the islands at the beginning of summer by going there on vacation. In the meantime the Dutch travel advisory has been amended to code orange, signifying to travel there only when necessary.

Former politicians criticize Dutch stance

State secretary Knops (Kingdom Relations) is supported by Parliament when it comes to making hard demands. The Dutch politicians believe that the islands have not held up their end of the deal enough times and that they have to sign on the dotted line.

However the criticism from outside of The Hague is persistent. Several prominent individuals in the Netherlands and on the islands – from business owners to former ministers to media personalities – believe that the stance taken by the Netherlands is too harsh towards the prime ministers of the islands and that it will also be detrimental for future cooperation.

Maria Liberia-Peters, former prime minister of the former Netherlands Antilles, says that the Netherlands needs the islands. Especially when it comes to international politics. It is thanks to the prime ministers of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten that the Kingdom (read: the Netherlands) managed to get a UN-seat, Liberia-Peters uses as an example.

‘Win-win situation for the Kingdom’
Former prime minister Mike Eman, in an open letter to prime minister Mark Rutte, reminded him of how Aruba helped him in the past. And that Aruba passionately tries to create ‘win-win situations for the Kingdom’, while The Hague behaves as treasurer. According to Eman a crucial moment has presented itself, where the Netherlands should be more ‘friendly’.