Tuesday , March 5 2024

European Parliament candidate Caarls (D66) knows the islands

Susanne Caarls, candidate number 9 on the slate of the Dem­ocratic Party D66 in the May 23 elections for the European Parliament, is no stranger to the Caribbean Netherlands. She under­stands the issues of the is­lands and wants to encour­age residents to vote.

From September 2012 to May 2015, Caarls worked as a representative of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations BZK on Bonaire, St. Eu­statius and Saba. “‘Together with many others, I have assisted with social hous­ing on Saba, after school care on St. Eustatius and deprived youngsters on Bo­naire. I also worked on sub­jects like integrity and good governance,” she stated in an interview to introduce her candidacy.

Candidate number 9 on the D66 slate Susanne Caarls is well-acquainted with the Caribbean Netherlands.

Caarls said she loved her job on the islands. “I have fond memories of the warm people, the hospitality and people’s dedication. How­ever, I also realise that the relations between the is­lands and the Netherlands are delicate, and sometimes it takes a while to find the right way of working to­gether.”

Looking back at the close to three years that she worked on the islands, Caarls said she found it a pity that not all issues, in­cluding the eradication of poverty, were solved. She said that willingness from the part of the Dutch gov­ernment wasn’t always the reason why things didn’t go the way the islands wanted. “It is also because of com­plex processes which unfor­tunately sometimes prevent instant solutions.”

She said that at that time she seriously started to consider going into poli­tics. “We didn’t manage to address the poverty issues adequately. I then realised that there are limitations to what you can do as a civil servant. I therefore decided to join D66 and became a candidate for the European Parliament.”

Caarls, currently Senior Project Leader at the Struc­tural Reform Support Ser­vice of the European Com­mittee, explained why it is so important for the people on the islands to vote. “The European Parliament, just like any other parliament, represents the voice of the people, including the voice of the people in the Dutch Caribbean. There are two important subjects that the European Parliament deals with: investments and op­portunities.”

The European Parlia­ment determines together with the governments of the European Union (EU) member countries how the budget is spent. A small part of this budget goes to the islands. For example, towards social housing on Saba and the developing of the harbour on Statia. Recently, D66 ensured that European funds were freed for the new harbour on Saba.

“It is important that this financing remains in place, and that it is expanded. So that for example, after a hurricane we can quicker deploy European funding to get the islands’ economy going again. We have no­ticed in the past years that The Hague cannot finance all. Therefore, it is crucial that we keep on top of this. D66 insists that the islands get assistance for invest­ments, and a part of this comes from the EU.

Education is one area where the EU provides op­portunities for the islands, Caarls explained. Students come to the Netherlands to further their studies. Stu­dents can also opt to do a part of their studies in for example Spain or France. This means that the Neth­erlands can serve as a gate­way for Europe. “I strive to expand these opportunities and investments, and the best way I can do this is from within the European Parliament.”

Aside from the European citizens on Bonaire, St. Eu­statius and Saba, European citizens of Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten also have voting rights in the Euro­pean Parliament elections. However, these citizens first have to register as a “voter abroad.” Caarls not­ed that D66 wants to make it much easier for people in the Kingdom to cast their vote. That is why the party will keep insisting on a sim­pler procedure in order to vote.

The Daily Herald.

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