The Daily Herald writes that parliamentarian Flora Goudappel hopes to use her vast knowledge of Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) and European law when she gets elected into the European Parliament. She is number six on the slate of the Dutch Labour Party PvdA in the May 22 European elections. “European legislation and subsidies are of direct importance to the Dutch Caribbean.” Goudappel (45), associate professor International and European Union (EU) Law at the Erasmus School of Law of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, is no stranger to the Dutch Caribbean and has visited the islands on several occasions. The last visit was to Curaçao where she lectured on the OCT status of the islands in the EU and the new OCT arrangement that went into effect on January 1.
For the Dutch public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the EU plays a bigger role than for the autonomous countries in the Dutch Kingdom, Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten. “European laws that end up in the Netherlands are applicable to the islands,” said Goudappel. Much of the legislation affecting daily life in the Netherlands comes from Brussels. And, because the Caribbean Netherlands are part of the Netherlands a great deal of the legislation applies to the islands as well. Residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba directly participate in the European elections.
Many EU laws and regulations are directly applicable to the overseas countries Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten as well. Residents of these three countries may also vote, but have to have been registered prior to April 7. So far, quite a number of residents of the three latter countries have done so. The OCTs have a rather large amount of funds from the EU at their disposal to invest in projects that benefit economic and sustainable development. The OCT status also has important trade benefits, said Goudappel, who is the holder of the Jean Monnet Chair in EU Trade Law in the overseas territories since 2012.
There is free traffic between the Dutch Caribbean and the EU. Dutch Caribbean citizens with the Dutch or other EU nationality are free to work and reside in any EU country. This fact makes the law proposal of Member of the second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD party to regulate the residency of new immigrants from Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten “symbol legislation,” said Goudappel. “It is a farce,” said Goudappel when asked her opinion on this initiative law proposal which doesn’t have the support of the PvdA in the Second Chamber. She remarked that it was “odd to say the least” that people from the islands could freely work and reside anywhere in the EU except, in a small part, the Netherlands. “This may be a nice stunt for right-wing parties during campaign time, but it doesn’t solve any problems,” she said. According to the associate professor, the solution to the over-representation of Dutch Caribbean youngsters in crime statistics in the Netherlands is not to forcefully keep them on the islands. The solution should centre on investing in the people on the islands, in poverty, education and employment opportunities. “Forceful handling is not the solution.”
The EU has special attention and funds for projects to combat youth unemployment. “Through these projects, you create jobs and perspective for the people on the islands,” said Goudappel. Specific funds for economic development and a separate arrangement for tourism are part of the new OCT agreement. The OCTs now also have a bigger say in their relations with the EU and do not have to go via The Hague to get to the EU. Because of their direct ties to the EU, Dutch Caribbean citizens should make sure that they are represented in Brussels. “It is important to elect people who can defend their interest and who understands them,” said Goudappel, who has been working on a handbook in the English language on EU laws and regulations that are applicable to OCTs. The handbook, which should be published in 2015, will provide governments and citizens detailed information and tools on issues like free traffic.
Goudappel has a great chance of being elected as she has an eligible position on the PvdA slate. The slate boasts big names like former Member of the Second Chamber Paul Tang on number one and retired FNV union leader Agnes Jongerius on number two. The PvdA slate also has a Dutch Caribbean candidate: accountant Maruschka Gijsbertha on number 32. After having been an active PvdA member for many years, mostly in the background, Goudappel decided she wanted to do something with her vast knowledge of EU law. “I wanted to apply my knowledge in practice. It is not entirely certain that I will be elected, but I am hopeful.” The coming weeks Goudappel has a busy campaign agenda with debates and speeches planned throughout the Netherlands. So far the promotion for Goudappel.