Published On: Fri, Apr 13th, 2018

Council of State: Dispute Regulation still necessary

Council of StateTHE HAGUE - The continued differences of opinion within the Dutch Kingdom underscore the need for the introduction of a Dispute Regulation (“geschillenregeling”), according to Council of State.

In its 2017 annual report, which was published on Thursday, mention was made of the great solidarity that was displayed among the countries of the Kingdom, the people and organisations before, during and after Hurricane Irma, especially during the initial emergency phase.

“Victims were spontaneously cared for in Aruba and Curaçao, volunteers of the Red Cross branches from the Netherlands, Aruba and Curaçao sprang into action, the Royal Navy, Marechaussee, marines and other parts of Dutch Defence immediately offered assistance, all in good cooperation with the island emergency services,” it was stated.

“Despite that solidarity, one has to conclude that the relations on a political-governmental level between the partners in the Kingdom showed no structural improvement over the past year. Repeatedly disputes evolve which obstruct further deliberations.”

These disputes concern not only the Netherlands on the one side and the Dutch Caribbean countries on the other side, but also the Caribbean Netherlands. The “untenable situation” in St. Eustatius and a local government which refused to act according to Dutch laws were mentioned – developments that resulted in the intervention by the Dutch Government in February 2018.

The dispute between St. Maarten and the Netherlands regarding the establishing of the Integrity Chamber remained unsolved in 2017. Based on a protocol that St. Maarten and the Netherlands signed in May 2015 regarding the Integrity Chamber and assistance to the law enforcement system, St. Maarten last year filed an appeal at the Council of State for the Kingdom when the Kingdom Council of Ministers threatened to force the Integrity Chamber on St. Maarten via a general measure of the Kingdom Government (“algemene maatregel van rijksbestuur”).

In July 2017, during the session at the Council of State in The Hague, the Netherlands and St. Maarten agreed that St. Maarten would ratify the National Ordinance to establish the Integrity Chamber. “Unfortunately, this agreement was taken over by Hurricane Irma and the discussion on Dutch aid for St. Maarten’s reconstruction.

According to the Council of State, these issues underscore the importance of arriving at an effective Dispute Regulation. There are already some provisions that have proven useful. These provisions are secured via the Advisory Department of the Council of State, which after hearing the parties, prepares a draft decision for the Kingdom Council of Ministers.

That draft decision is binding for the strictly legal aspects. As for all other aspects, the draft decision is considered of great weight and the Kingdom Government may only deviate if it has a significant reason to do so.

The four countries of the Kingdom so far have not agreed on a joint law proposal. The Kingdom Council of Ministers has not taken a decision on this matter. Former Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk had a law proposal drafted for a Dispute Regulation shortly before he left office.
State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops informed the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament earlier this week that the consultations as a result of the advice of the Advisory Department of the Council of State regarding this law proposal were still taking place. Knops promised the Second Chamber he would report on the progress of the law proposal before this summer.

Curaçao and St. Maarten remain without a permanent representative on the Council of State for the Kingdom. Their seats have been vacant for several years now. In November 2017, Mildred Schwengle was welcomed as a Member of the Council of State on behalf of Aruba.

The Council of State hopes that the vacancies for the Members from Curaçao and St. Maarten will be filled in the short term, it was stated in the 2017 annual report. “This benefits the advising within the Kingdom.”

The “excellent cooperation” with the Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, and of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba continued in 2017. Three Members of the Council of State of the Administrative Jurisdiction Department acted as members of the Joint Court. Two Members of the Council of State are a member and substitute member of the St. Maarten Constitutional Court.

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