Discussion of movement of persons with new government

One will mainly have to await what kind of government the Netherlands will have, prior to discussing important matters such as the Kingdom Law on Movement of Persons, according to Antillean Parliament Chairman Pedro Atacho (PAR) and Minister of Interior and Constitutional Affairs Roland Duncan (NA). Duncan said it was about time the Statute of the Kingdom was revised.

Prime Minister Emily de Jongh-Elhage is ready to "work respectfully together with whatever new government." De Jongh-Elhage sent a congratulatory e-mail to the offices of the winning parties. Although VVD has become the largest party of the Netherlands for the first time, Geert Wilders of PVV is the big winner, in her opinion. She sees considerable fragmentation.

She spoke with outgoing Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende Thursday morning, who has announced he would leave the political scene after the electoral defeat of his party CDA.

"He finds it difficult, but that's the political choice you make." Personally, De Jongh-Elhage appreciates Balkenende, with whom she worked a lot during the past four years, first with Minister for Kingdom Relations Alexander Pechtold (D66), followed by Atzo Nicolaï (VVD) and finally State Secretary Ank Bijleveld-Schouten (CDA).

She had contact with the latter at least twice a week. The debt reconstruction was realised under Balkenende's leadership. "No loan, but redemption of debt," the Prime Minister had emphasised.

Movement of persons

However, once the new Dutch government has been formed, there are matters that have to be dealt with, for example, the Kingdom Law on Movement of Persons. Atacho said it was up to the islands to prepare themselves well for this. A thorough, legal study of the treaties and laws of the Kingdom is requisite.

"We will then be well-prepared once the discussions start," said Atacho. He said that when Curaçao was still a Dutch colony, a conscious choice had been made to protect the fragile labour market of the islands. That explains the current National Regulation on Admission and Deportation, in which different regulations apply to Dutch citizens wishing to reside here than to Antilleans wanting to live in the Netherlands.

Duncan also views the Kingdom Law on Movement of Persons as one of the most important issues to be settled after the formation of the new Dutch government. The Minister could not state the exact outcome, but the statute must be reviewed, in addition to the Kingdom Law on Movement of Persons.

"After 50 years, it's time to review the statute. If we wish to develop our ties further with the Netherlands, we must not be afraid to give up the things of the past."


From personal experience, Atacho said the formation process in the Netherlands would be complicated. "There could be a right- or a left-wing cabinet. A right-wing cabinet with VVD, CDA and PVV will have a minimum majority of 76 seats in the Second Chamber [of the Dutch Parliament-Ed.]." He questioned whether a cabinet with such a small majority could take up the challenge to thoroughly tackle all current problems in the Netherlands: problems such as the financial crisis and the increasing budgetary deficit.

According to Atacho, a right-wing cabinet could be formed much more quickly, while a left-wing cabinet would require more negotiations. "It's VVD leader Mark Rutte's move now."

For Duncan, the electoral result in the Netherlands proves that the country is divided. It's now Rutte's move, as leader of the party that turned out to be the winner, Duncan said. Although Geert Wilders as political leader of PVV had lately adjusted his message somewhat, Duncan said he did not believe a cabinet with PVV would be easily formed, even though PVV acquired all rights to become a serious conversation partner in the formation discussions.

Duncan: "The Netherlands has good relations with many Muslim countries in the world and has always adopted a neutral position internationally. Therefore the Netherlands is not waiting for a cabinet that opposes Islam."

Another possibility is a Paars-Plus cabinet, consisting of VVD, PvdA, GroenLinks and D66. For the Netherlands Antilles, it mainly regards a balance within the Dutch government, according to Atacho, "and that's where you end up with a VVD cabinet with the left-wing parties."

According to Duncan, it will be difficult for Rutte to form a cabinet with the left-wing parties because VVD will have to make promises on nearly half of the electoral programme in order to realise a coalition programme. "That means it will also be a difficult period of government." As an example, the Minister named the mortgage-interest deduction, to which PvdA and VVD are flatly opposed.

Political structure

The course of political change has already been determined. A number of Consensus Kingdom Laws have already been adopted and they regard the completion of the process so the new statuses can become effective for the islands from October 10. Therefore the date is no longer in danger, said Atacho.

"The Upper Chamber will discuss the Consensus Kingdom Laws on July 6 and then it's entirely up to Curaçao to complete the Constitution and a number of other matters."

Atacho did not consider the final Round Table Conference (RTC) a problem either. "Outgoing Premier Balkenende can finalise the final RTC himself, if the formation of a new Dutch cabinet takes some more time. Otherwise, the new Dutch Premier would have to lead the final RTC, but that does not necessarily have to be a problem either. Every government must respect the continuity."


According to Minister Roland Duncan, interesting lessons could be learned from the Dutch elections of Wednesday, June 9. One lesson politicians must learn is that they should not maintain one position too long. According to Duncan, CDA leader Jan Peter Balkenende made the traditional mistake of maintaining a position too long, which is why CDA suffered a severe loss during the elections. The Netherlands was fed up with Balkenende.

However, Wouter Bos viewed things brilliantly, said Duncan. "He had unplugged the coalition and PvdA had lost public favour. Bos had immediately resigned and withdrawn from active politics. This way, PvdA was able to grow again under leadership of a new party leader, and it became the second-largest party."

Another lesson to be learned is that when a party grows, it must give its all to govern. "During the elections in 2006, the Socialist Party (SP) acquired 25 seats, but did not participate with a cabinet for various reasons. According to Duncan, the voters reprimanded such by not voting for SP, as it would be a lost vote. The party lost 10 seats in the Lower Chamber.

10 June 2010

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