Kingdom conference avoids hot topics

POSTED: 04/8/14 12:47 AM

ORANJESTAD – The second edition of the Kingdom Conference ended with agreements about topics everybody could agree upon, Ariën Rasmijn reports on Caribisch Netwerk. Matters like the free travel of people, the right to cancel Kingdom laws unilaterally and the committee to settle disputes was pushed into the future or did not get a definitive accord.

Instead, the Netherlands, St. Maarten, Curacao and host country Aruba made agreements about a new taskforce for the promotion of the rights of the child, economic cooperation and improving cohesion.

Conference chairman Mike Eman called it “a historic day with constructive consultation whereby many concrete agreements have been made.” The declaration issued at the end of the conference indicates that a special taskforce will be established that – based on recommendations from a report UNICEF published last year – will guarantee the rights of the child in the Caribbean part of the kingdom.

Improving cohesion within the Kingdom must happen through stimulation of contacts between organizations, institutions, churches and citizens. According to Eman, strengthening these ties must serve as a buffer for future situations whereby the countries for whatever reason are unable to find each other politically.

The conference emphasized the economic cooperation between the four countries. The already existing relations and the hub function of the countries get additional attention. More concrete is the plan to develop special economic zones in the BES-islands for cheap imports. St. Maarten, Aruba and Curacao will be involved in these plans.

The three Caribbean countries – St. Maarten, Aruba and Curacao – are part of the so-called SIDS-countries (Small Island Developing States), small countries with certain natural, economic and scale limitations. As such they are for instance already supported by the Netherlands in the fields of defense, legal security and Coast Guard. The Kingdom Charter also guarantees this support.

The declaration issued at the end of the conference furthermore states that the countries will look for support for other matters as well. Eman considers the joint guarantees for children’s rights as an advance on this initiative, but other potential matters where the Netherlands could help in the future were not mentioned.

The conference furthermore discussed the results of the four work groups that were established in 2011. These groups discussed during the past two years amongst other issues the free travel of people, possible bottlenecks and different interpretations of the Kingdom Charter and the establishment of a committee to settle legal disputes between the countries.

About some of these matters agreements were made, while others were moved to a later date. Asked about it, the partners indicated that they had not dealt with the issue of free travel of people.

Minister Ronald Plasterk (Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations) said that the work group had focused in particular on improving the organization of travel between the four countries. His earlier statement in the media about conditions for the free travel is a separate matter, though it was briefly discussed with the partners.

The Netherlands still prefers to create a Kingdom law through consensus with all countries. Plasterk said that the other countries have indicated that they are awaiting with interest the moment he presents this proposal. The countries spoke about a committee to settle legal differences, but they did not make firm agreements about it. The wish from St. Maarten and Curacao to introduce a unilateral right to cancel Kingdom laws was included in the declaration at the end of the conference without further comment.


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