Netherlands Antilles

Nederlandse Antillen
Netherlands Antilles
Flag of Netherlands Antilles Coat of arms of Netherlands Antilles
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: Libertate unanimus
(Latin: "Unified by freedom")
Anthem: Anthem without a title
Location of Netherlands Antilles
Capital Willemstad
Largest city Willemstad
Official language Dutch
Government
 - Queen Beatrix
 - Governor Frits Goedgedrag
 - Prime minister Emily de Jongh-Elhage
constitutional monarchy part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands 
Area
 - Total 960 km² (184th)
371 sq mi 
 - Water (%) Negligible
Population
 - July 2005 estimate 183,000 (185th)
 - Density 229/km² (51st)
593/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2003 estimate
 - Total $ 2.45 billion (180th)
 - Per capita $ 11,400 (2003 est.) (79th)
HDI  (2003) n/a (unranked) (n/a)
Currency Netherlands Antillean gulden (ANG)
Time zone (UTC-4)
Internet TLD .an
Calling code +599

The Netherlands Antilles (Dutch: Nederlandse Antillen), previously known as the Netherlands West Indies or Dutch Antilles/West Indies, are part of the Lesser Antilles and consist of two groups of islands in the Caribbean Sea: Curaçao and Bonaire, just off the Venezuelan coast, and Sint Eustatius, Saba and St. Maarten, located southeast of the Virgin Islands. The islands form an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The islands' economy depends mostly upon tourism and petroleum.

Contents

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History

See also Dutch colonial empire.

Both the leeward (Alonso de Ojeda, 1499) and windward (Christopher Columbus, 1493) island groups were discovered and initially settled by the Spanish. In the 17th century, the islands were conquered by the Dutch West India Company and were used as bases for the slave trade. Slavery was not abolished until 1863.

In 1954, the status of islands was promoted from that of a colonial territory to part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as an associated state within a federacy. The island of Aruba was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 1986, when it was granted a "status apart", and became a separate part of the kingdom.

If acknowledged by a referendum on all islands, from July 2007 onward, Curaçao and Sint Maarten will take a constitutional status similar to that of Aruba, while the smaller islands will be reincorporated into the Netherlands as Dutch municipalities. As a consequence, this means that from July 1, 2007, the Netherlands Antilles would cease to exist as a state.

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Politics

The head of state is the ruling monarch of the Netherlands, who is represented in the Netherlands Antilles by a governor. The governor is also head of the local government, and forms, together with the council of ministers, the executive branch of the government.

The legislative branch is two-layered. Delegates of the islands are represented in the government of the Netherlands Antilles, but each island has its own government that takes care of the daily tasks on the island.

The Netherlands Antilles are not part of the European Union. Since 2006 the Islands have given rise to diplomatic disputes between Venezuela and the Netherlands. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez claims that the Netherlands may allow the United States to install military bases that would be necessary for a planned U.S. invasion of Venezuela. On May 23, 2006 an international military manoeuver known as Joint Caribbean Lion 2006, including forces of the U.S. Navy, began.

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Future status

The Netherlands Antilles is to be disbanded on July 1, 2007.

The idea of the Netherlands Antilles as a state never enjoyed full support of all islands. Political relations between islands were often strained. After a long struggle, Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986, to form its own state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The desire for secession has also been strong in Sint Maarten.

In 2004 a commission of the governments of the Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands reported on a future status for the Netherlands Antilles. The commission advised a revision of the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in order to dissolve the Netherlands Antilles.

Two new associated states within the Kingdom of the Netherlands would be formed, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Meanwhile, Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius would become a direct part of the Netherlands as special municipalities (bijzondere gemeente), a form of "public body" (openbaar lichaam) as outlined in article 134 of the Dutch Constitution. These municipalities will resemble ordinary Dutch municipalities in most ways (they will have a mayor, aldermen and a municipal council, for example) and will have to introduce most Dutch law. Residents of these three islands will also be able to vote in Dutch national and European elections. There are, however, some derogations for these islands. Social security, for example, will not be on the same level as it is in the Netherlands, and the islands are not obliged to introduce the euro; they may retain the Antillean guilder pending further negotiations. Also, it is unknown whether prostitution and same-sex marriage will become legal in these islands, which are legal on the mainland of the Netherlands. All five of the island territories may also continue to access the Common Court of Justice of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles (with the Joint Court probably receiving a new name). The three islands will also have to involve the Dutch Minister of Foreign Relations before they can make agreements with countries in the region.

Originally the term used for Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius to describe their expected association with the Netherlands was "Kingdom Islands" (Koninkrijkseilanden).

Additionally, the Kingdom government would consist of the government of the Netherlands and one mandated minister per Caribbean country. The special municipalities would be represented in the Kingdom Government by the Netherlands, as they can vote for the Dutch parliament.

The Netherlands has proposed that the new EU constitution allow the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba to opt for the status of Outermost Region (OMR) also called Ultra Peripheral Region (UPR), if they wish.

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Islands

The Netherland Antilles have no major administrative divisions, although each island has its own local government.

The two island groups of which the Netherlands Antilles consists are:

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Geography

Image:Nt-map.png

The windward islands are all of volcanic origin and hilly, leaving little ground suitable for agriculture. The leeward islands have a mixed volcanic and coral origin. The highest point is Mount Scenery, 862 metres (2,828 ft), on Saba (also the highest point in all the Netherlands).

The Netherlands Antilles have a tropical climate, with warm weather all year round. The windward Islands are subject to hurricanes in the summer months.

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Economy

See also Economy of Saba.

Tourism, petroleum transshipment and oil refinement (on Curaçao), as well as offshore finance are the mainstays of this small economy, which is closely tied to the outside world. The islands enjoy a high per capita income and a well-developed infrastructure as compared with other countries in the region. Almost all consumer and capital goods are imported, with Venezuela, the United States, and Mexico being the major suppliers, as well as the Dutch government which supports the islands with substantial development aid. Poor soils and inadequate water supplies hamper the development of agriculture. The Antillean guilder has a fixed exchange rate with the United States dollar of 1.79:1.

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Demographics

A large part of the Netherlands Antilleans descends from European colonists and African slaves that were brought and traded here from the 17th to 19th century. The rest of the population originates from other Caribbean islands, Latin America, East Asia and elsewhere in the world.

Papiamentu is predominant on Curaçao and Bonaire (as well as the neighboring island of Aruba). This Romance creole descends from Portuguese with a strong Spanish admixture plus subsequent lexical contributions from Dutch and, latterly, English. Nevertheless, the official language of the islands is Dutch, and English on St Maarten, Saba and St Eustatius. Legislation is produced in Dutch but parliamentary debate is in Papiamentu or English, depending on the island. Due to the islands' closeness to South America, Spanish is becoming increasingly known and used throughout the archipelago.

The majority of the population are followers of the Christian faith, mostly Roman Catholic. Curaçao also hosts a sizeable group of Jews, descendants of a Portuguese group of Sephardic Jews that arrived from Amsterdam and Brazil in 1654.

Most Netherlands Antilleans are Dutch citizens and this status permits and encourages the young and university-educated to emigrate to the Netherlands. This exodus is considered to be to the islands' detriment as it creates a brain drain. On the other hand, immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Anglophone Caribbean and Colombia have increased their presence in the last years.

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Culture

The origins of the population and location of the islands give the Netherlands Antilles a mixed culture.

Tourism and overwhelming media presence from the United States has increased the regional United States influence. On all the islands, the holiday of Carnival is, like in many Caribbean and Latin American countries, an important one.

See also: Music of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles, Culture of St. Martin, Culture of Saba

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Miscellaneous topics

Both the land area and population of the Netherlands Antilles are just more than half that of Zeeland, a mainland province. Unlike the metropolitan Netherlands, same-sex marriages cannot be performed here, but those performed in other jurisdictions are recognized. Also unlike the mainland, prostitution and marijuana are also illegal.

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External links

Dutch overseas empire
Former colonies
Africa: Arguin Island | Cape Colony | Lydsaamheid fort & factory in Delagoa Bay | Dutch Gold Coast | Gorée | Mauritius

The Americas: Berbice | New Holland (in Brazil) (part) | Dutch Guiana & | Demerara | Essequibo annex Pomeroon | New Netherland (New Amsterdam, New Sweden) | Tobago | Virgin Islands (part)

Dutch colonization of the Americas

Asia: Ceylon | Dutch India (Dutch Bengal - Coromandel Coast - Malabar Coast) | Deshima island in Japan | Dutch East Indies | Malacca | Taiwan

Arctic & Oceania: Netherlands New Guinea (Indonesian Irian Jaya) | Smeerenburg on Amsterdam island

See also: Dutch East India Company | Dutch West India Company
Present colonies (only Caribbean)
Kingdom of the Netherlands: Netherlands Antilles | Aruba


 
Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
Flag of the Caribbean Community
Antigua and Barbuda | Bahamas¹ | Barbados | Belize | Dominica | Grenada | Guyana | Haiti¹ | Jamaica | Montserrat² | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Suriname | Trinidad and Tobago
Associate members: Anguilla | Bermuda | Cayman Islands | British Virgin Islands | Turks and Caicos Islands
Observer status: Aruba | Colombia | Dominican Republic | Mexico | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Venezuela
¹ member of the community but not the CARICOM (Caribbean) Single Market and Economy.
² territory of the United Kingdom awaiting British instruments of entrustment to join the CSME
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