Ambassador pushes closer ties with Caricom, British, French

08 APRIL 2016

THE HAGUE--The Dutch Caribbean countries and by extension the Kingdom of the Netherlands, should take a closer look at more cooperation with the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), the European Union (EU) and European countries that still have responsibility in the region such as France and England to tackle issues on the islands such as poverty, economic
development, violence and climate change.

Dutch Ambassador in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Jules Bijl shared his view during a lecture on Tuesday organised by the Dutch Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK titled “The Caribbean challenge for the future.”

Bijl has worked for eight years in Curaçao, first as the Director of the Cabinet of the Governor of the Netherlands Antilles in 1996 and again in 2010 as Director of the Cabinet of the Governor of Curaçao. In that capacity, but also as Ambassador in Trinidad and Tobago, a position he holds for about half a year now, he has extensively travelled in the Caribbean.
Poverty, gang violence, climate change are all issues that cannot be tackled by one country alone. And that doesn’t only count for the Dutch Caribbean countries, but for the entire Caribbean, stated Bijl, who gave an overview of the challenges that the Caribbean countries have been facing.

The Ambassador illustrated that the multiple, complex challenges throughout the Caribbean were not related to constitutional structures or models. In the Dutch Caribbean, but also in other Caribbean countries, efforts to tackle poverty, gang violence and drugs related crime have to be intensified and ask more mutual cooperation.

According to Bijl, the vicious circle of violence and crime must be curbed in the interest of economic and social development of the islands. He said that many islands in the Caribbean suffered by organised crime, drugs related crime and gang violence. “The Caribbean is situated between the main players in the Western Hemisphere and Europe,” he said.

Then there is also the issue of climate change and the associated rising ocean level. This is a major issue for island states and requires cooperation with others because no country can solve this on its own.
The Netherlands has ample expertise in water management and could help CARICOM to address this complex matter, suggested Bijl. He said that Bonaire, for example, as part of the Netherlands could serve as a showcase how to tackle the issue of climate change. “Let Bonaire be an example of what we can do.”

The Dutch Caribbean countries should get more involved with CARICOM because of the advantages that it could bring, said Bijl. Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten are not yet an associated Member States of CARICOM, as their requests are still under CARICOM’s consideration.

Bijl said he was a proponent of more cooperation with the British and French as responsible actors in the region who also have a joint interest in creating positive developments in the Caribbean. The EU should play a bigger role in this aspect as well.

The three EU countries, the Netherlands, France and Great Britain, together could achieve more results for the Caribbean and for themselves, through intensified coordination. This would also have a positive effect on accomplishing quick results in, for example, cases of disaster management.
In his talk before a select audience at the BZK Ministry, Bijl also reflected on the constitutional changes and the relations within the Kingdom. He agreed with former Netherlands Antilles Governor Jaime Saleh who implied in a speech in Curaçao last weekend that the Kingdom should not waste its energy on structures, but that it should work on giving content to the relations.

According to Bijl, the relations between the individual islands and the Netherlands became more direct after the break-up of the Netherlands Antilles and need a new impulse towards more cooperation and effect on the content of the problems that are mutual Caribbean problems. “We need to get out of this convulsion and focus on building things together.”

Source: The Daily Herald, St. Maarten