By Suzanne Koelega
THE HAGUE–“The driving force behind harmonious and constructive consultations, after years of conflict.” President of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Khadija Arib could not have said it better in her farewell words directed at Chairman of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations Jeroen Recourt.
Recourt (46) left Parliament on Wednesday, with pain in his heart. “There was so much that I still wanted to do. There is still work to do for the further improvement of the relations within the Kingdom.” He did not get re-elected after a seven-year term because his party, the Labour Party PvdA, secured a mere nine seats in the March 15 Parliamentary elections. Recourt ran number 23 on the PvdA slate.
The more than five years tenure as Chairman of the Committee for Kingdom Relations provided Recourt an opportunity to share his love for the islands and to help improve the relations within the Kingdom.
His close affinity with the Dutch Caribbean, having worked as a Judge of the Dutch Caribbean Joint Court of Justice in Aruba, made him an ideal member of the Kingdom Relations Committee. He had just returned from Aruba when he made his entry in the arena of Kingdom Relations during the constitutional reform process in 2010.
In 2012, Recourt was asked to take over chairmanship of the committee from Brigitte van der Burg of the liberal democratic VVD party who was appointed chairperson of the Permanent Committee for Social Affairs and Labour. Van der Burg also left the Second Chamber on Wednesday.
Recourt would have loved to remain for another term, but for now he looks back at his time as Committee Chairman with pride. “I am proud of the results. We have gone from a culture of fighting to one of cooperation. I sincerely hope that this positivism will be continued, but that depends on how the people on both sides of the ocean act,” he told The Daily Herald.
The chairmanship of the Kingdom Relations Committee is a function with content and involves having to deal with the various points of views and mixed interests of the First Chamber and the Second Chamber, especially during the Inter-Parliamentary Consultation for the Kingdom IPKO held twice a year.
“You have to determine the manoeuvring space, both in the Dutch Parliament and on the other side of the ocean. That can be quite a challenge. Whether you succeed depends on your network and how you treat others, and that means based on respect and equality. Otherwise there is no way that you can cooperate with each other,” said Recourt.
Surely, the size between the countries may differ greatly, but there is still a shared interest: the Kingdom. Representing the biggest country, it does not befit the Dutch Parliament to tell the Parliaments of the other countries how they must act. “That is not only arrogant, but also senseless.”
One of the issues which required multiple consultations was the arriving at a joint position on the establishing of a Dispute Regulation (“geschillenregeling”) for the Kingdom. Thanks to the positive input from colleagues in the First and Second Chamber, and a lot of tuning in the IPKO Presidium and behind the scenes talks, parties arrived at a joint position on the Dispute Regulation.
Unfortunately, the realisation of the Dispute Regulation has been a long wait due to differences of opinion between the governments of the Kingdom on the format. “That is frustrating,” said Recourt, who emphasized that the new Dutch Government should “definitely” tackle this matter. He said that he was hopeful with the appointment of the right Minister of Kingdom Relations in the next cabinet.
Asked about his view on the future of the Kingdom, Recourt said that partners would have to think about the long-term content and support of this constitutional entity. In the long run it would be better for Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao to engage in a closer relationship. Recourt envisioned a similar cooperation structure for St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba.
“The long-term perspective of the current Caribbean Netherlands structure is not conducive to the wellbeing of the smaller islands. The ABC islands have more in common because they share the same language, they are geographically nearby and there are close family ties; the same goes for the Windward Islands. In the meantime we will have to make the best of the current constitutional structure,” he said.
The constitutional status of the islands is merely a “format, something on paper, a vehicle used for transport,” said Recourt. “Ultimately, it is about realising actual content within the Kingdom: prosperity for all, social-economic development, eradication of poverty, a sense of pride and unity, a shared culture. I vehemently hope that the positive culture that we cultivated we will prove to be a long-term thing.”
Relations between the governments within the Kingdom may have become harsher over the years, relations that were characterised by regular conflicts. But the relations between the Parliaments of the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten have gotten better, said Recourt.
Law enforcement is one of the areas that require cooperation within the Kingdom. Sharing his concerns about crime and mafia activities, Recourt said that it was highly important to tackle these issues together.
“The mafia operates internationally. A country cannot tackle this on its own. The mafia are world players and they are drawn towards the weaker links. We have to make sure that the islands are not the weak links freely exploited by the mafia,” said Recourt, who was also a member of Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Security and Justice.
Recourt said he found it a “great pity” that he could no longer serve as Chairman of the Kingdom Relations Committee, but he hoped that he would not say goodbye to the islands that he has come to appreciate so much. He hoped that somehow he would be able to remain involved. He thanked everyone for their support.
Back to the farewell words of President of Parliament Arib, who referred to the remarks of Recourt’s wife, Sjoera Dikkers, also a Member of Parliament for the PvdA. “I think we very much share the description of you in an article of the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper. Jeroen is very involved; he has a very strongly developed sense of justice whereby he doesn’t spare himself. We will miss your knowledge, but also your humour, both in The Hague, but also in Oranjestad.”