Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten are closing in on a deal with the European Netherlands for hundreds of millions of euros in support to cope with the impact of COVID-19.
The sticking point in negotiations has been the Netherlands’ insistence that Dutch officials would carry out and monitor economic reforms on which the bailout is conditioned; a demand Caribbean leaders argue is incompatible with their autonomy.
Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao, the largest of the three self-governing islands, told lawmakers this week that a compromise is at hand.
The Dutch supervisors would remain, but any decisions they take that affect spending and taxes would need to be ratified by the island legislatures.
The government of Curaçao would also be consulted on the appointment of one of the three supervisors.
Antilliaans Dagblad reports that a majority of lawmakers on Curaçao could agree to those terms.
Politico reports that Spain has proposed to include Gibraltar in the EU’s passport-free Schengen Area to facilitate cross-border travel.
The arrangement would be similar to Liechtenstein’s, which is not in the EU but a member of Schengen. Andorra is negotiating a similar status. Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City are in neither the EU nor Schengen but maintain open borders.
The proposal is backed by Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo.
96 percent of his citizens voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, but they were overruled by majorities in England and Wales.
Although Britain formally left the EU at the end of 2019, the bloc’s rules and regulations still apply until the end of 2020.
Gibraltar, like Britain, was never in the Schengen Area, but it was in the EU single market, allowing it to trade freely with the EU’s 27 other member states. Before the pandemic, commuters were typically waved through by Spanish border police. Read more “Spain Proposes Schengen Membership for Gibraltar”
Time is running out for the autonomous Dutch islands in the Caribbean to do a deal with their former colonizer.
Coronavirus has brought tourism, the mainstay of the island economies, close to a standstill. Tax revenue has dried up while unemployment has soared. Without support from the European Netherlands, the governments of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten will run out of money in weeks.
Weeks of political deadlock on Curaçao have been broken with the swearing-in of Shaheen Elhage as lawmaker. He succeeds William Millerson, who died in June.
Millerson’s death had reduced the government to ten out of 21 seats in the island’s legislature. Opposition parties refused to attend Elhage’s inauguration, denying the ruling parties a quorum. They are unhappy with cuts and reforms the government is enacting to qualify for financial support from the Netherlands.
One opposition lawmaker, Marilyn Moses, did attend parliament on Monday.
The government of the Aruba, a Dutch island in the Caribbean, has presented a five-point plan to restructure its tourism-dependent economy, which has been decimated by COVID-19.
Meanwhile on neighboring Curaçao, pro-independence parties are boycotting the inauguration of a pro-government lawmaker, bringing politics on the island to a standstill.
The two islands, and Sint Maarten, are autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and have yet to approve Dutch terms for financial support to cope with the effects of coronavirus. Read more “Contrast in the Dutch Caribbean”
The prime ministers of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten have turned down conditions to qualify for as much as €1 billion in coronavirus aid from the European Netherlands. A cabinet meeting in The Hague on Friday, which the leaders of the three islands attended, failed to produce a compromise.
The Dutch have proposed appointing a three-person panel to oversee reforms to which the aid is tied. The Caribbean islands consider this an infringement of their autonomy.
Eugene Rhuggenaath, the prime minister of Curaçao, went so far as to accuse The Hague of having “an agenda for the takeover and control” of the islands, echoing the rhetoric of pro-independence parties that supported violent protests against spending cuts two weeks ago, which prompted the Dutch to deploy troops to support the local police. Read more “Dutch Caribbean Resist Terms of Coronavirus Aid”
Politicians in the Dutch Caribbean have reluctantly agreed to spending reductions and reforms to qualify for €370 million in financial support from the European Netherlands:
25-percent cut in the salaries of politicians.
12.5-percent cut in the salaries of other public-sector workers.
Capping public-sector wages at 130 percent of the prime minister’s salary. (Such an income limit already exists in the European Netherlands.)
20-percent contribution from firms to wage subsidies for the unemployed.
Oversight from the Dutch Central Bank in the financial industry of the islands.
With their tourism-dependent economies in free fall due to the outbreak of coronavirus disease, the leaders of Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten felt they had no choice but to agree to what Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao called “unrealistic demands” and John Leerdam, a former Labor Party politician, who was born on Curaçao, called a “diktat” from The Hague.
But the terms (which do not apply to emergency food and health-care aid) still fall short of the more thorough and long-term reforms Dutch governments, of the left and right, have advised for years, in some cases decades:
Changes in the tax law, so the wealthy pay a bigger share.
Spain has demanded greater clarity on the status of Gibraltar before signing off on the treaty that is meant to regulate Britain’s exit from the EU in March 2019.
“We want the interpretation to be clear in that text that the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU will not apply to Gibraltar,” Josep Borrell, the Spanish foreign minister, said on Monday.