Article by Joyce van Genderen-Naar
ACP-EU Courier, N.11 – May June 2009 www.acp-eucourier.info
HOW DUTCH ARE THEY?
The Dutch Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) consist of six islands, located in the Caribbean Sea, also known as the Dutch Caribbean. These six islands are: Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius.
Five of these islands are the Netherlands Antilles, divided into the Leeward Islands (northern) group (Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten) and the Windward Islands (southern) group (Bonaire and Curaçao). The island of Sint Maarten / Saint Martin is the smallest landmass in the world shared by two independent states, the French territory of Saint Martin in the north and the Dutch territory of Sint Maarten in the south. Aruba was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 1986 when it gained its Status Aparte.
The six islands belong to the Netherlands since 1634, when the Dutch captured them from Spain. Curaçao became a slave trading post and the center of the Caribbean slave trade until the abolition of slavery in 1863. The Dutch West-Indian Trading Company transported the captive Africans from the West-African Coast to Curaçao. Here they remained in camps for some years and were sold to the continent or put to work in the fields or as house slaves. When oil was discovered off the shores of Venezuela in the early 20th century a refinery was built in Curaçao to process the Venezuelan oil. Curaçao and Aruba prospered and an offshore financial sector was created in Curaçao for Dutch business interests. The islands stayed Dutch colonies until 1954, when they received a certain kind of autonomy and together with Suriname became part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Only in internal affairs full autonomy was granted. The Dutch Government remained responsible for defense and foreign affairs of their overseas Caribbean countries.
Tourism, petroleum refining, and offshore finance are the main pillars of the economy of the Netherlands Antilles. Natural resources are beaches and offshore diving sites.
The islands enjoy a high per capita income and a well-developed infrastructure compared with other countries in the region. The nominal GDP is $3.3 billion and the GDP per capita $17,800. Tourism/services count for 84% of GDP. The real growth rate is 1.2%. Industry is 15% of GDP (petroleum refining in Curaçao, petroleum transshipment facilities in Curaçao and Bonaire, light manufacturing in Curaçao). Agriculture is 1% of GDP with aloes, sorghum, peanuts, vegetables, and tropical fruit as products.
Trade: Exports $3.4 billion, concerning petroleum products. Major markets are U.S. 24%, Venezuela 15%, Guatemala 10%, and Singapore 6%.
Imports $3.5 billion, concerning machinery and electrical equipment, crude oil (for refining and re-export), chemicals, foodstuffs; major suppliers are Venezuela 59.8%, U.S. 12.55%.
Most of the oil that the Netherlands Antilles import for its refineries comes from Venezuela. Almost all consumer and capital goods are imported. The USA, Italy and Mexico are the major suppliers. The Netherlands provide financial aid.
The population of the islands speaks Papiamentu, an official language with Spanish, Portuguese and Creole roots. It is the language used at schools, at home, on TV, in the newspapers, in the Courts, for music, poetry, literature etc.
The dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles
The Netherlands Antilles and the Dutch government agreed upon the dismantling of the Netherlands Antilles in January 2010. Curaçao and St. Maarten will receive more autonomous status within the Dutch Kingdom, comparable to the status aparte that Aruba has since 1986. The other three Dutch OCT-islands, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will become a “gemeente” of the Netherlands that is a small Dutch municipality with a Dutch mayor. Which raises the question why in the 21st Century islands want to become more dependent instead of less dependent. An explanation is that they are too small, the population of Bonaire being 11,537, Saba 1,491, St. Eustatius 2,699. Until now the central government of the Netherlands Antilles in Curaçao has taken the decisions for these small islands.
While Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will become a Dutch Gemeente, Curaçao and St. Maarten will become autonomous countries of the Dutch Kingdom. This was agreed with Holland but only under very severe financial conditions. The central government of the Dutch Kingdom in The Hague, the Netherlands, wants to keep financial control and financial supervision of Curaçao. The population of Curaçao gave its opinion on the final agreement to get an independent status in the Dutch Kingdom during the Referendum that took place on 15 May 2009: 52% voted YES and 48% voted NO.
‘Dushi Kòrsou’: Land of the Sweet (‘Dushi’) Land of the Heart (‘corazon; coraçao’)
Curaçao is the largest island of the Netherlands Antilles. 140.000 people, 40 nationalities, are living together on a surface area of 44 km2, a multi-cultural population with their roots in many countries. Due to the island’s slightly heart-shaped bays, Curaçao received the Spanish name corazon (heart) or Portuguese coraçao. Another explanation is that it is derived from the Spanish or Portuguese word for healing: curación or cura, because of the curative effects of the many tropical fruits. In Papiamentu Curaçao is Kòrsou and well known as ‘Dushi Kòrsou’, which means ‘Sweet Curaçao’.
Curaçao has a geographical favorable position in the Caribbean, just above Latin America (Venezuela), with its many natural harbors, excellent geo-political location, good connections by air and by sea and modern infrastructure. A quite unique spectacle is the huge cruise and cargo ships that daily enter the large natural harbor of Willemstad in the town centre. Curaçao is officially outside the hurricane belt and suffer fewer damages as other Caribbean islands in the hurricane seasons
Tourism and financial services are an important source of income for Curaçao. Average 5 cruise ships each week come to Curaçao, with tourists from the USA and the Caribbean. Tourism from the Netherlands is very high and KLM re-introduced its Boeing 747 to meet the increasing demand from the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia. The economy of Curaçao performs well. Main contributors to the recent economic expansion are: tourism (stay-over tourism grew by 28 percent in 2007 and 30 percent in 2008, cruise tourism triggered a wave of construction of new hotels and expansion of existing ones), the logistics industry including the airport and harbor, the oil industry (increases in refining, storage and transshipment in 2007; in 2008 economic activities in the oil refinery slowed down), financial services sector (expansion in 2007, a deceleration in 2008 due to the international financial turbulence; international financial services develop well due to Curaçaos’ favorable fiscal environment, and the presence of large number of international banks, trust companies, accounting and law firms, international audit firms, international corporate and tax advisors); re-exports by the e-zone companies (decline in 2006 and 2007, reflecting Venezuela’s currency trading restrictions, recovery in 2008). E-commerce contributed to the economic development, using Information and Communication technology (ICT) as a major source of production. Special regulations and laws enable Curaçao to offer special grants to attract investors in e-commerce and to facilitate e-commerce development, local banks offering e-services and financial offshore companies hosting international e-companies.
Regional cooperation and integration
Curaçao has always been an island of trade and an open economy, with commerce and business relations with Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, the United States of America and Asia. There is a strong bond with Venezuela, which is by plane only 35 minutes away. Tourists and business people from Venezuela are daily visiting Curaçao. In November, December 2008 and January 2009 Curaçao experienced a ‘golden period’ with all the dollars spent and all the goods bought by visitors from Venezuela. The so-called credit card tourism from Venezuela is a flourishing business in Curaçao, where they buy a lot and withdraw cash money that will be exchanged in the profitable illegal money market in the Venezuelan streets. Well known are also the small boats with fruits and vegetables that sail daily from Venezuela to Curaçao’s floating market in Punda, the other part of Willemstad.
There is also cooperation with the United States of America, especially in the field to combat narco-trafficking.
A longstanding historic cooperation/relationship exists with Suriname, ACP-Caribbean on the North coast of South-America that was part of the Dutch Kingdom as well until 1975. Since 1930 people from Suriname come to work and to live in Curaçao. Each week there are 4 direct flights from Curaçao to Suriname vice versa. In Curaçao rice, fish and other products are imported from Suriname. Famous was the rice-OCT route: rice from Suriname went from Curaçao to the EU-market duty free. In March 2009 members of parliament from Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles met in St. Maarten and decided to extend the trade and other relations between their countries.
The commercial contact between Curaçao and Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago has become significant during the last 5 years. Trinidad established two major companies, RBTT Bank and Guardian Insurance, in the Netherlands Antilles. Barbados has some investments on the islands and a Memorandum of Understanding between Curaçao and Barbados will be signed soon, covering cooperation in the area of Investment Promotion and Export, Regional Integration, Curaçao's membership of Caricom, Economic Development Harmonization, Alternative Energy (Solar energy, Wind energy), Innovation in Agriculture, Fair Competition Policy and Consumer Protection, Tourism.
The Netherlands Antilles are an associate member of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS). Curaçao is also planning to become a member or associated member of CARICOM (Caribbean Common Market) and is studying what opportunities the Cariforum-EC-EPA could offer Curaçao. A Cariforum-EC-EPA seminar will be organized in Curaçao to deal with these issues. In May 2008 the Chamber of Commerce of Curaçao organized an EPA Fact Finding Trade Mission to Trinidad and Barbados with the participation of public and private sector stakeholders in order to identify Cariforum-EC-EPA business opportunities.
Author: Joyce van Genderen-Naar, Journalist/Lawyer, Brussels, May 2009.
Labels: ACP EU, afro european sisters network, aruba, black female authors, bonaire, curacao, dutch caribbean, dutch west indian trading company, journalist from Suriname, Joyce van Genderen-Naar, saba, sandra rafaela, st eustatius, st maarten, the netherlands antilles, women of the african diaspora
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BLACK EUROPEAN SUMMIT
Transatlantic Dialogue on Political Inclusion
We, as members of the public, private, and voluntary sectors from Europe and the United States of America convening in Brussels, Belgium from the 15 to 16 of April for the Black European Summit: Transatlantic Dialogue on Political Inclusion, draw attention to the need for coordinated strategies to address racism and discrimination;
We recognize the democratic, multi-ethnic and multi-racial nature of our countries’ diverse societies;
We reaffirm the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and recalling that all individuals are born equal in dignity and rights;
We remain concerned that the political and legal systems in some of our societies do not reflect the racial and ethnic diversity within our societies, which then contributes to the continuation of racism and discrimination;
We recognize that the full access of racial and ethnic minorities to participate in the political sphere and relevant areas of decision making at the levels of national, regional, and locally elected government appropriate to each nation is critical to combating racism and inequality and ensuring our democratic societies;
We therefore note the need for concrete strategies to: increase the representation and influence of racial and ethnic minority policymakers; jointly seek solutions to racial and ethnic minorities increased participation in decision-making in the development and implementation of policy initiatives to address discrimination and inequality; and support opportunities to exchange and share perspectives in these areas through the continuance of a transatlantic dialogue to realize these goals.
We today resolve that we will endeavor to enact initiatives to eradicate racial and ethnic discrimination through:
Continuing a transatlantic dialogue that: includes cultural exchanges between American and European racial and ethnic minority groups, including youth; focuses on the development of opportunities for racial and ethnic minority political leadership and participation in the policymaking process; and fosters the exchange of information on best practices to implement and enforce antidiscrimination measures and achieve racial equality;
Joining forces over the coming months to develop common goals and objectives in each of our decision-making bodies to recognize Europe’s Black and racial and ethnic minority populations for their historical and present-day contributions and acknowledge past injustices;
Promoting racial and ethnic minority participation at all levels of national, regional, and local government through the education of civil and political rights, including the legislative process and advocacy of legislative issues relevant to racial and ethnic minority communities, development of targeted professional development and hiring strategies, increased youth and community outreach, and self-organization and other empowerment initiatives;
Reaffirming our continued cooperation and commitment to work with our governments, international institutions, civil society, private sector, and other partners to improve institutions so that they are fully participatory and reflect the democratic principles of equality, justice, and celebration of the strengths of ourcountries’ diversity.
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Office of the United Nations High
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Tel: 22-9289874|Fax: 22-9289050
For Immediate Release June 19, 2009
Contact: Neil Simon
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Cell: (202) 340-7450
As Europe Veers Right, Minority Parliamentarians Counter
WASHINGTON– With far-right and anti-immigrant parties making worrying advances in recent elections across Europe, minority lawmakers and leaders called today for the political process to be more inclusive of minorities.
Following April’s “Black European Summit: Transatlantic Dialogue on Political Inclusion” in Brussels, Belgium, minority political and intellectual leaders today adopted a declaration calling for increased efforts to include racial and ethnic minorities in the political process. (Please find attached a copy of the Brussels Declaration).
“I was very pleased to have the opportunity to work on these initiatives with my European colleagues,” said U.S. Congressman and Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL). “Whether speaking about voting and civil rights, increasing minority elected officials and diversity in policy staff, or responding to discriminatory policies, we have common issues.
While I have been able to share the many successes we have had in the United States in terms of minority political participation, most recently evidenced by President Obama, one need only look at the lack of diversity in the U.S. Senate and staff in Congressional offices and many government agencies to know that we can be doing more. It is one reason I fully support this transatlantic declaration.”
“Despite the global significance of President Obama’s historic election, the reality is that our elected leadership does not reflect the diversity of origins of people in our nations” said Summit co-organizer Harlem Desir, Member of the European Parliament (MEP). “This has contributed to a lack of inclusion of minorities in the planning and implementation of the very policies that impact us. Despite some successes, the overall results of recent elections are simply further evidence that we must do more to ensure the representation of the diversity of our society.”
"In Britain we had never elected fascists in a national election until now. Whilst in the past there have been far-right MEPs from other countries, such as France, this election saw new groups gaining seats across Europe, and thus a worrying threshold has been crossed," said Summit co-organizer and President of the European Parliament All Party Group on Anti-Racism and Diversity, Claude Moraes MEP. "We will have to tackle the pernicious growth of far-right racist parties head-on, at both the grass-roots and parliamentary levels, and an integral part of this lies in encouraging the full inclusion of minorities in the political process."
U.S. Helsinki Commissioner Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), a former Judge known for his work supporting voting rights, who participated in the Summit, added, “it is clear by the outcome of the European elections that too few people are taking part in the political process at a potentially great risk to democracy. As I have learned from my work in the U.S., it is critical to remedy this situation rather than preserve a status quo that repeatedly elects lawmakers who do not represent the diverse interests of the population.”
“These concerns for minority representation are exactly why we adopted the Brussels Declaration,” said Summit co-organizer Joe Frans, Vice President of the United Nations Working Group on Experts of People of African Descent. “The declaration calls for the full and equal participation of non-White citizens of Europe with African, migrant, and other backgrounds in our countries’ democracies. With more racist, xenophobic, and anti-Muslim parties making political gains, immigration and antidiscrimination policies are going to be further scrutinized, which will impact how persons of different races, ethnicities, and religions, are viewed and treated. Implementation of the Brussels declaration in this current climate is of the utmost importance.”
The first “Black European Summit: Transatlantic Dialogue on Political Inclusion” was held in Brussels, Belgium at the European Parliament on April 15th and 16th. The historic 2-day Summit brought together political and intellectual minority leaders from the United States and Europe to exchange information on the roles of racial and ethnic minority policymakers in developing and supporting policies and initiatives to address racism, discrimination, and inequality. Participants included Parliamentarians, Congressional representatives, local and nationally elected officials, academics, representatives from European and international institutions, civil society, the private sector, and media.
The Black European Summit was hosted and organized by Harlem Desir, Member of the European Parliament and Vice-Chairman of the Socialist Group; U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings, Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission; and Joe Frans, President of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent and a former Swedish Parliamentarian.
Co-organizers included: Claude Moraes, Member of the European Parliament and President of the European Parliament All Party Group on Anti-Racism and Diversity and Glyn Ford, Member of the European Parliament.
The 34th ACP-EU Council of Ministers took place on Thursday 28 and Friday 29 May 2009 in the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels. Ministers from 79 African, Carribean and Pacific states met the members of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission and discussed trade issues, EPAs, the bananas issue, climate change, the economic and financial crisis and official opened the negotiations for the revision of the Cotonou Agreement in 2010.
On Bananas the ACP Ministers made a declaration in which they stated that the threat to the economies of ACP countries is clearly serious and that they have to act now to prevent its materialising. "We have noted that the EC has indicated that discussions are almost at an end with the MFN suppliers and the US, with whom it intends to sign the final deal by the end of June 2009. The ACP countries insist on the need to ensure that any deal should:
(i) include a peace clause settling alle outstanding disputes at the WTO;
(ii) include a Credit clause, by seeking the endorsement of the entire WTO
(iii) safeguard the interest of ACP countries
(iv) comply with the EU's contractual commitments, particularly those contained in the recently signed EC-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement, which provides for tariff reductions to be made only if "unavoidable" and that in any case they "should be phased in over as long aperiod as possible".
The ACP Ministers stated that the EC proposal will have disastrous consequences for ACP banana-exporting countries, unless a longer period for the reduction of preferences is given and adequate resources are provided to assist the countries in dealing with the impact of the reductions.
They reiterated that it is pointless to enter into any agreement in anticipation of a Doha settlement and that the EC proposal to the MFN countries is more far reaching than is required.
Joyce van Genderen-Naar