Call for modernization of Kingdom Charter
THE HAGUE- The bottlenecks in the Dutch Kingdom could be solved through a modernization of the Charter without actually changing the current constitutional relations.
Member of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament Thom de Graaf of the Democratic Party D66, with the support of many parties in the Senate, presented a motion to this extent during Tuesday’s debate on the constitutional evaluation with Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk.
De Graaf said his party was disappointed that the debate didn’t focus on the overall evaluation of the new constitutional relations that were established in October 2010 when the Country the Netherlands Antilles was dismantled and the Countries Curaçao and St. Maarten were created, with Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba settled as Public Entities of the Netherlands.
According to De Graaf, the initial plan was to include a possible revision of the Charter in the evaluation process. This aspect was not realized, while there was “every reason” to assess the new constitutional relations in an objective manner, said the Senator who deplored that the evaluation of the Kingdom Consensus Laws for Curaçao and St. Maarten was not ready to discuss since the Dutch Government still had to come with a formal reaction.
De Graaf called for a modernization of the Charter, a discussion which he said has been kept quiet for several years now. He said the idea was not to revise the current constitutional relations, but to adapt the 1954 document to take away some of the bottlenecks that the Kingdom has been faced with.
“We should look at whether we want to modernize the Charter 62 years after it was signed,” said De Graaf. His motion called on the Dutch Government to promote the modernization of the Charter and to discuss this with the other partners in the Kingdom.
Minister Plasterk doubted whether the countries were interested in adapting the Charter. “There is little interest for that, both on the islands and within the Second Chamber, which is after all the legislator,” he said. The Minister referred to the very limited attendance of parties in the Second Chamber during the handling two weeks ago of a law proposal to amend the Charter to restrict the use of General Measures of the Kingdom Government without a legal base.
Senator Frank van Kappen of the liberal democratic VVD party spoke of the “challenging construction” of the Kingdom which “continuously led to discontent and mutual haggling” between the Netherlands and the Dutch Caribbean countries.
“That not only has to do with the colonial past and the large differences in culture, language and size of the population, but also with a deeply felt discontent of the Dutch Caribbean countries about the absence of a Kingdom Parliament. This democratic deficit is felt as unfair and a flaw in the Charter,” said Van Kappen.
According to the VVD, this democratic deficit can only be eliminated by having the Dutch Caribbean countries become independent. “We will keep muddling on as long as the Caribbean countries don’t collectively choose to become independent,” said Van Kappen.
A solid, mutual Dispute Regulation can be beneficial to the troubled relations within the Kingdom. Both Van Kappen and Sophie van Bijsterveld of the Christian Democratic Party CDA brought up an alternative option in the discussion regarding the range, the binding aspect and the choice for a dispute body.
Van Kappen and Van Bijsterveld referred to the Financial Supervision Kingdom Law that regulates financial supervision for Curaçao and St. Maarten. The Kingdom Law in question has a so-called strengthened Crown appeal, a procedure at the Council of State whereby the legitimacy decision is binding and the Kingdom Government may only deviate from the advice on the policy aspect based on authoritative reasons.
Minister Plasterk contended that in practice it was complex to differentiate between disputes that had a strictly legal base and disputes that were based on policy decisions. He said that the Financial Supervision Kingdom Law was of a different nature and covered a much smaller range. He said that the Dutch Government had prepared a law proposal for a Dispute Regulation which soon would go to the Second Chamber and that he would await the legislative procedure.
Senator Kees Kok of the Party for Freedom PVV called the current constellation of the Kingdom a “made-up construction that invoked little warm feelings and increasingly squeezed.” He said that not much had changed since October 2010, let alone that things had improved.
“The joint element is distrust and indifference, despite the diversity of the countries. Shared interests are lacking. Any basis for a form of constitutional brotherhood is almost absent. The sui generis relations lean on the negative deployment of the rough remedy of the guarantee function or the issuing of instructions,” said Kok.
The PVV Senator called for a fundamental revision of the Kingdom relations, for which, he said, there was unfortunately little interest. He said that with any sense of urgency for a shared future seemingly having been lost, it was better to close the chapter with a clear vision on a different set-up of the Kingdom.
Kok further mentioned the problems in the Dutch Caribbean countries associated with corruption, nepotism, integrity problems, crime, inadequate financial management and conflicts of interest. “St. Maarten is the worst,” he said.
Senator Henk ten Hoeve of the Independent Senate Party OSF said that in his opinion it didn’t seem opportune to adapt the constitutional relations in the Kingdom. But, he added, it was wise to keep in mind the shortcomings in the relations and to take these into account in the relations between the countries.
Senator Van Bijsterveld said the Kingdom was “more than a meager constitutional relation.” She said the historic connection alone was not enough and that parties should keep working on the will to remain together as a Kingdom. “That means focusing on cooperation possibilities in areas such as education, culture, economy and international relations. A constructive attitude from both sides is important.”