Yes, within the Kingdom of the Netherlands we are all Nederlanders, having the Netherlands nationality. Since 10.10.10 three types of Nederlanders can be delineated: the European Nederlander, the Caribbean Nederlander of the BES islands, and the Caribbean Nederlander of the CAS countries. These different catagories of Nederlander refer to location and concomitant jurisdiction. The European and BES Nederlanders fall under the jurisdiction of the Netherlands while the CAS Nederlanders are defined by the jurisdiction of the respective Caribbean countries. How do these different regimens work out for the undivided Nederlanderschap?
According to the Kingdom Charter of 1954 (Het Statuut) the affairs of the Kingdom are limited, mainly foreign affairs, defence and nationality. All Nederlanders fall under this regimen of Kingdom affairs, for all the same. All other affairs, however, fall under the responsibility of each autonomous country. Each is charged with the responsibility to uphold fundamental human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and good governance. The CAS autonomy implies that each country has its own understanding of how this should be done, though within the purview of the Kingdom that must safeguard that the countries uphold these rights, freedoms and good governance. Here is the snag: When, where, and to what extent must the Kingdom safeguard good governance in the Caribbean countries? This juxtaposition challenges the separation of affairs doctrine and opens the door for the Kingdom intervening in a country’s autonomous resort.
Separation of affairs doctrine
The verdict is still out as to whether the Kingdom’s guarantee of good governance should include social-economic rights such as standards of education, social-economic security, child safety and public health in the Caribbean countries. Expanding the Kingdom’s chapter of safeguarding Caribbean good governance is controversial, principally because of the separation of affairs doctrine, defining a limited Kingdom portfolio and Caribbean autonomy in all other affairs. It also matters that a majority in Dutch politics won’t support a proactive and inclusive Kingdom good governance regimen in the CAS countries, due to budgetary restraints, but also simply for lack of interest (Verhey 2010, 39). Moreover, such proactivity would be received in Caribbean politics as an intrusion upon the autonomy domain, trespassing sacred grounds. Yet the shared Netherlands nationality requires a degree of practical consensus on good governance, also with regards to government affairs that fall within the jurisdiction of the CAS autonomy. From the point of view of the undivided nationality of all Nederlanders, the separation of Kingdom and CAS affairs is a faux orthodoxy. A case in point that demonstrates the practical implication of the separation of affairs doctrine is the huge difference in school dropouts among children who all have Netherlands nationality. This difference is testimony to different grades of Nederlanders. Besides, it threatens the freedom of movement within the Kingdom.
On Curacao and Sint Maarten over 40 % of the students dropped out of school without a diploma in 2001 (UNDP 2011, 64-66); the Central Bureau of Statistics Curacao presents a figure of 35.5 % (CBS-Cur 2011). For students in the Netherlands the dropout figure is about 8 %, and getting lower (Feiten en cijfers Schooluitval). Why would minimum standards for education, child safety and social-economic security not apply to all Nederlanders? The orthodox answer is embedded in the separation of affairs doctrine: these affairs are not part of the Kingdom portfolio; they fall into the autonomous realm of the CAS countries. Yet how does this de-civilization between Nederlanders relate to a common and undivided nationality for all? Besides, school dropouts who have no chance on the labour market are consequential for the public order in the CAS countries. Isn’t short sighted to have consensus on law-enforcement in the CAS while being blind for the consequences of substandard education?
The urgency of this critical question is triggered by practical circumstance. In preparation for 10.10.10 the Netherlands Education Inspection found that all BES schools were below standard. The BES Nederlanders, close neighbours of the CAS, will eventually (not yet!) enjoy the same standards of education as the European Nederlanders. In 2011, an Education conference agreed to an ambitious BES agenda, sustained by a budget that matched this ambition. The quality of education should be in 2016 on a level acceptable to Caribbean and Netherlands standards (SCP 2015, 128). The Education Conference was rather precise: The norm is that a pupil from the Caribbean Netherlands should be capable of following a further education in the Netherlands without problems. The value of a diploma obtained on the BES islands must be equivalent to diplomas in the Netherlands, the Commonwealth Caribbean and the USA (SCP 2015, 128, 326).
The evaluation after five years is muted. Four of the twelve publicly funded primary schools now meet basic standards. Based on the Inspectorate reports, a number of other primary schools will follow suit. Adequate school management by heads and boards still leaves much to be desired (SCP, 2015, 136). Much more time is needed to achieve results that are at par with schools in the Netherlands. Yet, the crux of the matter is that the Inspectorate of the Netherlands is accountable, and methodically monitors the progress of what has been agreed upon. Being of utmost interest for the Netherlands to succeed, the BES education agenda must not be allowed to fail. The Netherlands government is responsible and must take action here, not as a matter of post-colonial rectitude, but demanded by Netherlands constitution and law. European, BES and CAS Nederlanders are critically watching, each for its own reasons, the BES performance in upgrading education. Without any doubt, the Netherlands will do its utmost to succeed in the BES, doing better than in the first five years, outshining the erstwhile Netherlands Antilles. Noblesse oblige!
Consensus on Securing Standards of Education
Anticipating a possible influx of CAS emigration to the BES, due to the appeal of better social-economic standards, the movement of other Nederlanders to the BES has – proactively – been regulated by law at 10.10.10 (Wetsvoorstel BES, 322282, 2010). This regulation indicates that manifest differences in social-economic security between the CAS Nederlanders and other Nederlanders do affect the undivided nationality, e.g. the free of movement within the Kingdom. In Dutch politics, the free movement of people within the Kingdom is mistakenly problematized as a problem of borders rather than people – often youngsters – who are denied adequate education and concomitant prospects in life. The Kingdom does not have a border problem per se, to be tackled by keeping CAS Nederlanders out, but rather a good governance differential that is not in accord with the constitutional common ground (Hirsch Ballin 2013, 35) of the undivided nationality. Reinforcing the shared Netherlands nationality is a matter of inclusive standards of governance that are ‘more or less’ at par among the countries of the Kingdom.
In retrospect it’s worth contemplating if all the efforts that have been put in obtaining a separate country status could be called upon for a Kingdom consensus law Securing Standards of Education, formatted on a similar compact that was applied in the case of sustainable fiscal governance. There it worked, not in the least because of its urgency. The massive Caribbean school dropout calls for equally urgent action. This Kingdom consensus law would be a communal Kingdom effort, deftly monitored to assess tangible results, other than the freewheeling ‘development cooperation’ of the second half of the 20th Century. Securing education and other social rights in the Caribbean has too long lacked priority in the Kingdom. The urgency of good governance in these areas will now be pronounced due to the proximity of the BES experience. This might eventually redirect the priority in the flow of where the CAS ‘high income’ goes, which would reflect a necessary shift in government priorities. The good governance score of the BES may serve as a wake-up-call for the CAS as well as for the Netherlands. Pro-active Kingdom relations with the CAS could be an unintended impact of 10.10.10. If only the CAS parents would no longer accept the massive school dropout of their children, the Netherlands cannot sit back but must act in accordance to the undivided nationality for all Nederlanders. Paraphrasing a Dutch saying: Nederlanders, Let op Uw saeck!
Amsterdam, 2 February 2017.
CBS, Number of school dropouts in the Netherlands and the EU, 29 January 2014
CBS-Cur: Total dropout rate for Curaçao was 35.5% during Census 2011.
Feiten en cijfers schooluitval
Hirsch Ballin, E. M.H. De Grondwet in politiek en samenleving. Rechtsstaatlezing 2013. Den Haag, Boom/ Lemma Uitgevers, 2013.
SCP (Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau), Vijf jaar Caribisch Nederland. Gevolgen voor de bevolking. Pommer, E. & Bijl, R. (eds.) The Hague: Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau, 2015.
Verhey, L.F.M., ‘Slotakkoord of nieuw begin: Enkele algemene beschouwingen over het nieuwe Koninkrijk’, in: A.L.C. Roos and L.M.F Verhey (eds.) Wetten voor de West. Over de wetgeving in het vernieuwde Koninkrijk der Nederlanden. The Hague, Ministry of Security and Justice, 2010.
UNDP, First Millennium Development Goals, Curacao & Sint Maarten, 2011.
Wetsvoorstel Wijziging van de Wet toelating en uitzetting BES (32282) Beraadslaging in 1ste Kamer, 28 September 2010.
Also published in The Daily Herald, Friday, February 3, 2017