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Dutch minister Plasterk confirms: No final status BES-islands in Constitution

WEDNESDAY, 20 FEBRUARY 2013

THE HAGUE–The change to the Dutch Constitution doesn’t force Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in a corner in their choice for a definite constitutional model, confirmed Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk in a document that he sent to the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, the Senate, on Tuesday.

The Minister stated this in response to questions of the Christian Democratic Party CDA in the Senate as to whether the proposed amendment to the Constitution to secure the position of the islands in the Dutch Kingdom would anticipate on a final constitutional model pending the general evaluation of their current public entity status in 2015.

“That is not the case. The law proposal in no way obstructs the choice for the final model as Dutch municipality,” stated Plasterk. His predecessor Liesbeth Spies had made a similar promise during the handling of the law proposal in the Second Chamber in October last year.

The Second Chamber approved the law proposal, which has now gone to the First Chamber for handling. The Senate’s Permanent Committees for Kingdom Relations and for Home Affairs and General Affairs will discuss the procedure on February 26.

The Dutch Government certainly doesn’t exclude the option of the islands becoming a municipality of The Netherlands, stated Minister Plasterk in response to a question of the Democratic D66 Party. “The municipality model is still the most common form of territorial decentralisation with a general government.” The Municipalities, provinces and public entities are considered forms of territorial decentralisation with a general government.

According to the Minister, “it is too early” to speculate about the possibilities for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to become Dutch municipalities, as it was specifically agreed when the islands attained the status of public entities per October 10, 2010, to take a term of five years into account before a “sensible” evaluation could take place.
Plasterk didn’t agree with the D66 and the Socialist Party (SP) that there was no rush in handling the proposed change to the Constitution, since the process to do so can’t be completed prior to the elections for the First Chamber in 2015, as amending the Constitution requires the approval by two consecutive Parliaments.

The Minister said it was true that both readings of the law proposal couldn’t be completed before 2015. “However, government wants to move ahead with this law proposal. Government wants to make sure that the revised Constitution is completed before the election of the First Chamber in 2019.”

Besides, explained Plasterk, the law proposal will regulate the safeguards for territorial decentralisation with a general government that are also applicable to municipalities and provinces. The proposal offers uniformity among the public entities and municipalities, because all conditions relevant to municipalities will become applicable. “Deferring the handling of the law proposal until after the 2015 evaluation is not an option.”

The Minister justified the reason for taking up a so-called “differentiation clause” for the islands in the revised Constitution. The clause serves to point out the special circumstances between the Caribbean Netherlands and the European Netherlands.

The SP had asked whether it was wise to include this differentiation clause, since it created a lot of mistrust and resistance on the islands. “I don’t share the view that the differentiation clause would be without meaning. It shows a distinct view that there will be many specific circumstances that make these public entities substantially different from the European part of The Netherlands, which can lead to deviating regulations for the public entities,” stated Plasterk.

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