THE HAGUE--Dutch State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops showed optimism during the 2021 Kingdom Relations budget handling on Tuesday about the negotiations with Aruba and Curaçao with regard to liquidity support.
Knops made clear that there was no agreement as yet, but the signs were hopeful and there was an urgency to reach an agreement. “The situation is very critical. The longer it takes, the more complicated it becomes.” Negotiations with St. Maarten remain on hold because that country is yet to comply with the conditions attached to the second tranche.
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the Dutch Caribbean and the liquidity support for the three countries were much-discussed subjects during Tuesday’s debate. Members of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament asked about the Dutch input, the status of the negotiations and manoeuvring room in the talks.
Member of Parliament (MP) Nevin Özütok of the green left party GroenLinks made a case to give the Parliaments of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten a bigger say in the decision-taking process to establish the Caribbean Reform Entity (CRE). Özütok had a motion ready to this effect, but on the advice of Knops, she agreed to hold the motion while awaiting the outcome of the current procedure.
Knops explained that at this stage there was no role for the Dutch Caribbean Parliaments, but that later on they would have a say during the handling of the Kingdom law proposal in the Second Chamber.
MP Antje Diertens of the Democrats D66 enquired about the possibility to have persons from the private sector of the three countries in the CRE, instead of only Dutch government-appointed persons. She pointed out that it was important to create more support for the CRE.
Knops had said on this latter point that the persons in the CRE would be appointed by the Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, but that this would take place in consultation with the three countries. He said they would have to be persons with expertise from the private and public sector, and with a feeling for the Dutch Caribbean.
The state secretary suggested that there was room in the negotiations. “It is not a matter of a take-it-or-leave-it situation, as has been said. We are talking with the countries to see whether there are elements and points that the countries would like to see differently,” he said.
In general, Knops appeared to be positive about the negotiations. “I am not pessimistic. It is a bit rocky at times.” As for the accusations of the Netherlands wanting to take over or recolonise the islands, Knops emphasised that there was no agenda to do such.
The Second Chamber expressed concerns about St. Maarten in the process to negotiate further liquidity support. “I don’t know any more what to do with St. Maarten. I am under the impression that the island is drifting further away from us,” said MP Chris van Dam of the Christian Democratic Party CDA. “St. Maarten is family, but family whom you almost never see again,” said Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP).
Knops noted that there was contact with St. Maarten, for example on law enforcement, the prison and the reconstruction, but that the country first had to comply with the conditions of the second tranche before the negotiations on the third tranche of liquidity support could take place.
MP Roelof Bisschop of the Reformed Christian Party SGP asked whether this delay would have an adverse effect on Aruba and Curaçao, but Knops said this was not the case. “We are speaking with three individual countries and that means that at a certain point in time, the trajectories will no longer run parallel.”
The state secretary said it would not be responsible to wait until an agreement had been reached with the last country, because the needs were very high and waiting for months was not a good idea.