THIS MORNING, one country disappeared, two more were born, a fourth was expanded, and all are part of a single kingdom. The Netherlands Antilles, the collective islands of the Dutch West Indies which since 1954 has formed a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was dissolved. Two of the islands in the archipelago, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, have become full constituent countries of the Kingdom (alongside Aruba, which was separated from the Antilles in 1986, and the Netherlands proper), while the islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba (the ‘B.E.S.’ islands) have been merged into the Netherlands proper as special municipalities.
The government of North Holland has invited the B.E.S. islands to join the province, but this has not yet been agreed to. With a combined population of just 17,000, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba do not have enough inhabitants to justify forming a single province of their own — the province with the lowest population at the moment is Flevoland at 356,000. North Holland’s offer may be turned down if it entails the complication of the three island-municipalities becoming part of the European Union. Currently all the islands of the Netherlands Antilles are outside the E.U., but all their citizens are E.U. citizens by virtue of being Dutch citizens.
The country status granted to Sint Maarten and Curaçao, like that of Aruba, does not entail independence, but rather a high degree of autonomy within the kingdom. The government of the entire realm maintains responsibility for sovereignty, defence, foreign relations, citizenship & nationality, orders of chivalry, shipping (excluding sail vessels), and extradition. The Estates of the Netherlands Antilles, the archipelagic parliament, has been abolished and the island councils of Sint Maarten and Curaçao have been elevated as the Estates of Sint Maarten and the Estates of Curaçao. Each island now has its own prime minister and cabinet responsible to the Estates.
Through this reorganisation, the Netherlands proper expands by an area of 124 square miles. At 2,877 feet tall, Mount Scenery on the island of Saba is the new highest point in the Netherlands, succeeding Vaalserberg in the province of Limburg (1,058 feet). The two official languages of the Netherlands, Dutch & Frisian, will now be joined by two more, Papiamento (spoken on Bonaire) and English (spoken on Sint Maarten). Dutch laws allowing abortion, same-sex ‘marriages’, and euthanasia will be applied to the new municipalities over the course of a two-year period. The Dutch minimum wage, however, will not be applied to the B.E.S. islands, to keep the cost of labour competitive within the Caribbean.
In an earlier article, I speculated that the Netherlands Antilles would be the next country to disappear from the roster of the Olympic Games (c.f. ‘Olympic Teams of Yesteryear’, 30 August 2010), given the expected dissolution of the entity. Before the dissolution, however, the Antillean Minister of Sport consulted with the five insular commissioners of sport and all unanimously agreed to continue fielding Olympians under a single flag. The Netherlands Antilles Olympic Committee agreed and the decision was ratified by the International Olympic Committee. While ‘the Netherlands Antilles’ will now refer to a region of the Caribbean instead of a country, it will for all intents and purposes be treated as the equal of any other entity with country status at the Olympics.
The Netherlands Antilles guilder (pegged at ƒ1 = US$1.79) will continue for the time being, but Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba will adopt the U.S. dollar as their official currency on January 1, 2011 while Curaçao and Sint Maarten will establish a currency union with a new ‘Caribbean guilder’ from 2012 onwards. Aruba introduced its own florin pegged to the U.S. dollar at the same rate as the Antillean guilder when it achieved its earlier separate status.