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The positive added value of the Kingdom of the Netherlands for the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom.

Since the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles as of October 10, 2010 the whole Kingdom is at a cross road of new developments. The autonomous status for Curaçao and Sint Maarten entails more autonomy and greater self-determination. This provides the islands - as new countries - with the opportunity to address their financial, social and economic problems in a more island specific context. However, we also have to understand that both in spirit and letter, more autonomy ought to be seen as a political force and challenge and definitely not as a withdrawal behind the walls of naive self-sufficiency or impossible forms of self-reliance in this world of globalization.

Furthermore, constitutional changes alone should not be seen as a kind of remedy for all these problems. History - in all parts of the world and for centuries - has proven that a positive development of societies and humanity in general cannot come from political measures alone. And certainly not from exclusive economic measures, technological innovation or constitutional changes. Deliverance will come from drastic change in a reassessment of cultural, spiritual and ethical values, eventually expressed in a transformation of both society and the economy.

In the context of the constitutional situation of our Kingdom this means that changes in constitutional structures by themselves will not have any effect if this is not accompanied by a change of mindset of people in society at large, but particularly of community leaders, in both the public and the private sector. It is a fact that development starts in the people’s mind, in their attitudes, values systems and judgments. To sustain our constitutional provisions and their implementations, and the democratic process in general, the political society should share their underlying values and constantly manifest commitment to them through its own political activity. Without transformation of mindset we will have more of the same, but than in a new constitutional structure without any additional benefit for our society as a whole. So, what we need is less talking about issues like more autonomy and more self-determination and a bigger focus on stimulating a social, economic and financial transformation in our societies. This should be both innovative and creative and based on giving our islands a clear direction by implementing a set of coherent policies.
These new policies should stimulate a sustainable economic growth and open our doors for globalization of our economic and financial sectors by creating an attractive economic, financial and less bureaucratic climate, which at the end will present greater benefits for our people.

At the same time, we should seize the opportunity of the constellation of the Kingdom for promoting sustainable cooperation and cohesion between the partners in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Being part of the Kingdom and having its Charter (“het Statuut”) as our highest constitution is of great added value that is still underestimated by many.
The fact that we now have King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima with an extensive international network throughout the economic and financial sectors, can provide us with more opportunities in the international economic and financial fields. The fact that they have invited me to participate in their cortege carrying the Charter of the Kingdom during the inauguration on April 30, 2013, demonstrates their commitment to our societies in the Caribbean parts of the Dutch Kingdom. It is the first time in history that this has happened.
We have to grab every opportunity out there. Articles 36, 37 and 38 of the Charter of the Kingdom give many possibilities for cooperation. Aruba has recently proven through the conference “Europe meets the Americas” that there are many international opportunities. Not only for the government, but most of all for the private sector, in particular in the field of international finance. The private sector of Curaçao should be a leading force globally, in particular in the Caribbean and the Americas from North to South by putting Curaçao on the map and creating all kinds of opportunities for cooperation in different sectors.

In the context of the potential of all these positive activities, the government and professionals in all fields of the private sector should emphasize the fact - in particular to partners in the Caribbean and Latin America - that we are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. That the Charter guarantees fundamental human rights and freedoms, legal certainty and good governance and that we have a very well functioning and independent judicial system with the possibility of appeal to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. Our judicial system provides national and international investors with the guarantee that their rights are well-protected. This is something not all countries in our region can guarantee.

According to article 39 of the Charter, Civil and Commercial law, the law of civil procedure, criminal law, law of criminal procedure, copyright and industrial property, the office of notary, and provisions concerning weights and measures shall be regulated as much as possible in a similar manner in the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. The article further stipulates that when a drastic amendment of the existing legislation with regard to these matters is proposed, the proposal shall not be submitted to or considered by a representative assembly until the governments in the other countries have had the opportunity to express their views on the matter. There are still discrepancies in several laws, but the basic principles and values of fundamental human rights and freedoms and legal certainty are well-protected. So, many provisions in the Charter of the Kingdom are of real, positive added value to our constitutional system.
The Charter of the Kingdom gives our islands the opportunities to enter into treaties with other countries, although the Kingdom will officially be partner in the treaty. In this context I would like to recommend that we use our embassies in the region more intensively. All our ambassadors are available to assist us in opening local doors and promoting our respective countries. Our financial and economic sectors should be an active part of delegations of our King and Queen during their visits to relevant countries and meet with potential investors. Some countries in Latin America, like Argentina, Brazil, Columbia and Panama, have growing economies. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima have a very good relationship with Latin America. The Dutch private sector is successfully using this close bond. Curaçao should do the same. In addition, it is very important to pay attention to the fact that Curaçao, due to its Caribbean location in between South and North America, can be a very useful hub-center for Dutch companies and associations and as such can provide a creative environment as well as a professional infrastructure to connect, meet and do business with the Caribbean and the Americas. Therefore, Curaçao and the other Caribbean parts of the Kingdom are also of great added value for the Netherlands.

It is about time for Curaçao to move ahead and make better use of the positive added value of the Kingdom for the island and our other islands in the Caribbean. This will effect the people in our societies in a positive way in the short and long term.

Improving communication with the rest of the world is only possible if we have a mutual perspective on economic developments and opportunities. Communication cannot just occur at a political or administrative level. Without the involvement of civil society groups, the business sectors and representatives of younger generations, we will not succeed. It is about time to seize new opportunities. With the commitment and support of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima we can reach further and make more progress in the pursuit of our ambitions.

Prof. Mr. Jaime M. Saleh
Minister of State

Professor Emeritus "Constitutional Kingdom Law"
at the University of Utrecht

Former Governor-General of the Netherlands Antilles

Former President of the Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao,
Sint Maarten and Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba