THE HAGUE – Will structural financial aid be coming from The Hague soon? A final decision is not expected this week, but next Friday could be an important day. After all, there is a Kingdom Council of Ministers on the agenda.
The islands need hundreds of millions but can only turn to The Hague for that. The Dutch cabinet has been putting a heavier demand on the table for a few weeks now. That means implementing more reforms and that the Netherlands itself gets to work on the islands with the borrowed money. For seven years no less.
Are Aruba, Curaçao and Sint-Maarten going to sign at the dotted line? Undersecretary Raymond Knops of Kingdom Relations wants to have clarity before September. Whether real steps will be taken on Friday depends on whether the Netherlands and the islands will negotiate in the coming days. The Kingdom Council of Ministers is a formal meeting. Reaching an agreement is faster by holding discussions in advance, experts say.
“We are simply asking the Netherlands for a dialogue”
“We have not had any talks since those proposals have been on the table,” says Curaçao Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath. Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten say that, like the Netherlands, they are convinced that reforms are necessary, but not at the expense of the fundamental rights and autonomy for which the islands have long fought for.
“We are simply asking the Netherlands for a dialogue. How we can come together from our and their vision, based on content,” Rhuggenaath told the press. “Also that our own experts will work together with those in the Netherlands.”
Since last weekend there has been something remarkable. There is optimism from the Rhuggenaath cabinet now that various Dutch wishes and Curaçao plans have been put together. “We are much more aligned than it seems”, Prime Minister Rhuggenaath emphasizes. “Much has also been achieved.”
Is tourism getting back on track?
The clock is ticking for the islands, but also for The Hague to ensure that the socio-economic crisis does not get worse. The island economies mainly rely on tourism, especially for Aruba and St. Maarten. Whether tourism will get going in the coming months remains to be seen.
The COVID-19 infections in Aruba and St. Maarten have increased sharply since the borders are open again to tourists from the United States. At the beginning of this summer, Dutch MP Chris van Dam made an appeal to people in the Netherlands to support the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom by mainly going on holiday there. In the meantime, the Dutch advice is not to travel there, unless necessary.
OLD POLITICIANS AND PROMINENTS HAVE CRITICISM OF DUTCH ATTITUDE
Undersecretary Knops receives plenty of support from the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament to impose hard conditions. Dutch politicians believe that the islands often fail to keep their word and should therefore sign at the dotted line.
The criticism outside the walls of The Hague is persistent. Several prominent people in the Netherlands and on the islands – from entrepreneurs, former ministers to media personalities – believe that the attitude of the Netherlands is too harsh towards the prime ministers of the islands and is also harmful to future cooperation.
Maria Liberia-Peters, former Prime Minister of the former Netherlands Antilles, points out that the Netherlands desperately needs the islands. Especially for what is happening on the international political stage. It is thanks to the prime ministers of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten that the Kingdom (read: the Netherlands) managed to secure a UN seat, Liberia-Peters cites as an example.
“Win-win situation for the Kingdom”
Former Prime Minister Mike Eman also points out in an open letter to Prime Minister Mark Rutte how Aruba helped him. And that Aruba would work more often with passion towards a “win-win situation for the Kingdom”, while The Hague behaves as “the treasurer”. According to Eman, a crucial moment has come for the Netherlands to show that it is also “friendly”.