New Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk officially took over the tasks of departing Minister Liesbeth Spies on Monday following the swearing-in of the new Rutte-Asscher cabinet by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands at Palace Huis ten Bosch. The changing of the guard took place at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK, where Plasterk signed the transfer document together with the new Minister Stef Blok, who will be in charge of Housing and Government Service.
As Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations, Plasterk (55), a member of the Labour Party PvdA, will be responsible for the three overseas countries, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten, as well as the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Other new Ministers with whom the islands will deal – be it on a more occasional basis – include Frans Timmermans (Foreign Affairs, PvdA), Jet Bussemaker (Education, PvdA), Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Finance, PvdA) and Jeanine Hennis- Plasschaert (Defence, VVD).
Some other Ministers are familiar faces for the Dutch Caribbean as they were in the former cabinet: Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Ministers Edith Schippers (Public Health, VVD), Henk Kamp (Economic Affairs, VVD) and Ivo Opstelten (Justice, VVD).
For Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba specifically there will be some old and new faces. Lodewijk Asscher (Vice-Prime Minister/ Social Affairs, PvdA) took over Social Affairs from Henk Kamp. The islands are familiar with State Secretaries Frans Weekers (Finance, VVD), Fred Teeven (Justice, VVD).
New to the islands are State Secretaries Sander Dekker (Education, VVD), Co Verdaas (Economic Affairs, PvdA), Wilma Mansveld (Infrastructure, PvdA), Jetta Klijnsma (Social Affairs, PvdA) and Martin van Rijn (Public Health, PvdA).
The new Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk is no stranger to the Dutch Caribbean. As Minister of Education, Culture and Science in the fourth Balkenende cabinet from February 2007 to June 2010, he met with Antillean and Aruban authorities and students from the islands on several occasions. Plasterk studied biology and earned his doctorate in mathematics and natural science. After his studies, he worked as a researcher in Pasadena, California, and Cambridge, England. After his postdoctoral education he worked at the Dutch Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. In 2000 he became director of the Hubrecht Laboratory/ The Netherlands Institute for Biological Development KNAW, a function he held until he was appointed Minister in 2007. From 1997 to 2003 he was professor of molecular biology and molecular genetics at two universities in Amsterdam and from 2000 to 2007 he was professor of genetics development at University of Utrecht. In June 2010 he became a Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament where he was PvdA’s main spokesperson on finance.