THE HAGUE–Unilateral secession from the Dutch Kingdom is not a possibility for the Netherlands, because approval of the Dutch Caribbean countries is needed. However, having a fundamental discussion about what the partners want with the Kingdom and the Charter should take place.
Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops agreed with the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament that this discussion should not be avoided, and that is why he recently sent a letter to the prime ministers of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten with the request to establish a high-level work group.
The topic of the Charter and the position of the Netherlands as to seceding came up frequently during the handling of the draft 2020 budget for Kingdom Relations in the Second Chamber on Tuesday and Thursday.
Member of Parliament (MP) André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party argued on Tuesday that in his opinion the current Kingdom Charter can be thrown in the wastebasket, because the Kingdom structure is not working, the individual responsibilities are not clear and the Dutch Caribbean countries are not keeping to the agreements. He said a deadline should be set, and if the islands do not comply, the Netherlands reserves the right to get out of the Charter.
“The fact that the Charter has already existed for 65 years says something about the power of the Charter and the manner in which it was drafted at the time. If you want to change it, you need approval of all countries. You cannot say as government or as Second Chamber, ‘let’s do this in a different way’,” said Knops on Thursday.
He said he was looking forward to hearing from the prime ministers of the Dutch Caribbean countries. “I truly hope that this will result in a debate, because one also needs to be able to talk about difficult topics.” He said he was not as pessimistic as MP Bosman that this work group would never materialise.
In the hypothetical case that the four countries agree with eliminating the Kingdom, they will all have to take a decision on their constitutional future. There can be several options on the table, varying from independence of the Caribbean countries to an integration in the Dutch constellation. He said that at that point in time, the Netherlands would have to choose a position, “because you can’t sit at the table without you knowing what you want to do.” But, he added, it would have to be done in a careful manner, and it would take time.
Unilateral secession by the Netherlands is not the way to go at this moment, noted Knops. “I really believe in the Kingdom, but then all parties need to take responsibility and we all have to really work on the strengthening of the constitutional state. You can quit, or you can try to solve things. Or you make a combination. I am not ready to say, ‘We quit.’ I am more on the track of, ‘how can you make things better?’”
Bosman was content with the Knops’ commitment to being at least willing to discuss the option. “We are progressing. We are now at the point where we don’t resort under article 73 of decolonisation of the United Nations Charter. The Netherlands now also has the right of self-determination. That is historical.”
The topic is one that will surely be discussed at the Inter-Parliamentary Consultation of the Kingdom IPKO, said Bosman. “But then it is essential that everyone speaks their mind about our constellation.”
Knops said he agreed with Bosman on this point. “I didn’t say that I don’t want to relay this vision. I have said that I don’t want to relay this at this time ahead of reactions of the governments of the countries,” he said.
He agreed with MP Machiel de Graaf that the fact that the Netherlands could not unilaterally decide to get out of the Kingdom was a “peculiar situation.” De Graaf called for annulment of the strange situation that the right of self-determination of the Netherlands depended on the three other countries. De Graaf filed a motion asking the Dutch government to arrange a dismantling of the Kingdom so the Netherlands could continue as an independent country.
Bosman filed a motion in an attempt to get a clear view of the relations and responsibilities within the Kingdom. The motion, co-signed by Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP), Chris van Dam of the Christian Democratic Party CDA, Stieneke van der Graaf of the ChristianUnion and Roelof Bisschop of the Reformed Christian Party SGP, requested that the Dutch government draft a proposal before October 1, 2020, to “secure clear and workable relations and responsibilities within the Kingdom.”
Knops advised against the two motions. He said the action suggested in De Graaf’s motion required approval of all four countries. In the case of Bosman’s motion, he said there were more players involved and that he could not set a deadline.