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Netherlands; Netherlands Antilles: Constitutional Reform for Netherlands Antilles Takes Effect

(Oct. 13, 2010) On October 10, 2010, an agreement between the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles on constitutional reform went into effect. It was announced in September that these two parties had signed a final declaration that completed the process for determining the constitutional future of the five islands – Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba – that form the federation of the Netherlands Antilles, which has exercised semi-autonomous control over most of its internal affairs since 1954. Until January 1, 1986, Aruba had also been part of the federation, but at that time it gained a separate status within the Netherlands. (Constitutional Reform of Netherlands Antilles Completed, GOVERNMENT.NL (Sept. 10, 2010),
; Background Note: Netherlands Antilles, U.S. Department of State website, (last visited Oct. 8, 2010).)

The accord on a new status for the Netherlands Antilles was signed on December 15, 2008, by the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles, and Aruba, at a Round Table Conference in Willemstad, the capital of the Netherlands Antilles. Under the reform, Curaçao and Sint Maarten will become autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, will be special municipalities of the Netherlands. In addition,

  • consensus is to be reached on a Kingdom Law governing the new status of the islands (the Netherlands is taking the lead, but the preparations and details will be prepared jointly in two multilateral project groups); and
  • the Netherlands Antilles is to be dismantled (the Netherlands Antilles is responsible for this process).

(New Status for the Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations, (last visited Oct. 8, 2010).)

Peter Balkenende, the Dutch Prime Minister, stated: “[f]ive years ago we embarked together on an intensive process that today has reached its conclusion … . The process has culminated in the most far-reaching revision of the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands since 1954.” He added, “[t]he outcome is a solid package of legal, administrative and financial arrangements that will enable the Kingdom to face the future.” (GOVERNMENT.NL, supra.)

The Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Statuut voor het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, in Dutch; Statuut pa e Reino di Hulanda, inPapiamentu) of October 28, 1954, is a voluntary arrangement between the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles that formerly included Suriname as well (for an English text, as last amended by the Kingdom Act of Sept. 7, 1998, see BULLETIN OF ACTS AND DECREES 1998, No. 579, available at [cut and paste Charter name if URL gives error message]). When it was adopted, “the Charter represented an end to colonial relations and the acceptance of a new legal system, in which each nation would look after their own interests independently, look after their common interests on the basis of equality and provide each other with mutual assistance.” (Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, Netherlands Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, (last visited Oct. 8, 2010).)