The Daily Herald writes as follows. “We talk a lot with each other in the Kingdom, but often don’t understand each other. We project our prejudices without really listening to each other. Sometimes, I am surprised how little we truly know each other.” Words of the Leader of the Dutch Democratic Party D66, Member of the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament and former Minister of Kingdom Relations Alexander Pechtold at the Kingdom Congress of the 17th trade mission of Interexpo and Tanja Fraai at Hotel Des Indes in The Hague, on Wednesday.
In his speech in front of a large audience that included the Governors of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten and representatives of the different Dutch Caribbean Parliaments, Pechtold addressed the difficult relations between the partners of the Kingdom, 200 years of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the historic ties, shared past and the future of the Kingdom which in his opinion holds plenty possibilities. “We can only find each other if we truly make an effort to learn to understand each other. Careful use of language is essential in this regard.” He said that the Kingdom needed time, space, patience and confidence. “A chance to build sufficient critical mass with small populations, to organise power and contra-power and to make a state of law and good governance a reality.” St. Maarten has a greater challenge than the other two countries Aruba and Curaçao. “The island is smaller and as such more vulnerable. It still has to set the necessary steps to good governance and solid government finances. That takes time,” he said. Pechtold called it “incredible” that the islands and the Netherlands have been together for centuries. “Our shared past, our overlapping cultures and shared symbols apparently connect us. We saw this again last week. The people on the islands embraced the new King and his wife,” he said.
“As a politician I consider it my task to create comprehension between the people here and overseas. A shared past and solidarity are values that are of equal importance as economic profitability,” said Pechtold, who referred to the remarks of Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte during and after his visit to the islands in July this year. “Our Prime Minister pretends that economic interests bring and keep us together. He had an optimistic story about what we can achieve through cooperation. But, when he came home he said that the islands could leave when they wanted. One phone call would do it, he said. Constitutionally his remarks have been correct, but they were diplomatically seen as clumsy and historically inappropriate,” said Pechtold.
Chairlady of the national Committee 200 Years Kingdom, Commissioner to the King of the province Overijssel and former State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ank Bijleveld-Schouten delivered the opening remarks at the Kingdom Congress. Bijleveld-Schouten elaborated on the upcoming anniversary of the Kingdom, the events that the Committee has planned. She said the anniversary should be a joint festivity in the Kingdom with respect for each other’s cultures. “We celebrate what binds us,” she said.
Professor Caribbean History at the University of Leiden and Director of the Royal Netherlands Institute of South East Asia and Caribbean Studies KITLV Gert Oostindie spoke of the growing aversion in the Netherlands against the Dutch Caribbean. “People ask what good are the islands to us. The Kingdom barely consists in the Netherlands, no matter how bad the islands want it to be,” said Oostindie who added that this aversion sometimes led to “embarrassing proposals” in the Second Chamber. Expounding on the title of his speech “A Kingdom without the Caribbean?” Oostindie said that The Hague was well aware that it could not unilaterally decide that the islands had to get out of the Kingdom. He said the Second Chamber was using more populist language and that historical and cultural features of the islands were decreasingly considered.
Interexpo co-organiser Tanja Fraai announced on Wednesday, that the next event, the 18th trade mission would take place on St. Maarten in May next year. A relatively large delegation from St. Maarten and St. Eustatius attended Interexpo’s trade mission and congress, which continues today, Thursday. Director of the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce Claret Conner and Koos Sneek of the St. Eustatius Business Association participated in a business debate on sustainable entrepreneurship in the Dutch Caribbean on Wednesday. On Thursday, Conner and Sneek will each give a presentation.