The Netherlands Antilles (Nederlandse Antillen, ; Antia Hulandes) was a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The country consisted of several island territories located in the Caribbean Sea. The islands were also informally known as the Dutch Antilles. The country came into being in 1954 as the autonomous successor of the Dutch colony of Curaçao and Dependencies. The Antilles were dissolved in 2010. The Dutch colony of Surinam, although it was relatively close by on the continent of South America, did not become part of the Netherlands Antilles but became a separate autonomous country in 1954. All the island territories that belonged to the Netherlands Antilles remain part of the kingdom today, although the legal status of each differs. As a group they are still commonly called the Dutch Caribbean, regardless of their legal status. People from this former territory continue to be called Antilleans ( Antillianen) in the Netherlands.
From 1815 onwards Curaçao and Dependencies formed a colony of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Slavery was abolished in 1863, and in 1865 a government regulation for Curaçao was enacted that allowed for some very limited autonomy for the colony. Although this regulation was replaced by a constitution (Staatsregeling) in 1936, the changes to the government structure remained superficial and Curaçao continued to be ruled as a colony.Oostindie and Klinkers 2001: 12–13
The island of Curaçao was hit hard by the abolition of slavery in 1863. Its prosperity (and that of neighboring Aruba) was restored in the early 20th century with the construction of oil refineries to service the newly discovered Venezuelan oil fields.
Colonial rule ended after the conclusion of the Second World War. Queen Wilhelmina had promised in a 1942 speech to offer autonomy to the overseas territories of the Netherlands. During the war, the British and American occupation of the islands – with the consent of the Dutch government – led to increasing demands for autonomy within the population as well.Oostindie and Klinkers 2001: 29–32
In May 1948 a new constitution for the territory entered into force, allowing the largest amount of autonomy possible under the Dutch constitution of 1922. Among other things, universal suffrage was introduced. The territory was also renamed "Netherlands Antilles". After the Dutch constitution was revised in 1948, a new interim Constitution of the Netherlands Antilles was enacted in February 1951. Shortly afterwards, on 3 March 1951, the Island Regulation of the Netherlands Antilles (Eilandenregeling Nederlandse Antillen or ERNA) was issued by royal decree, giving fairly wide autonomy to the various island territories in the Netherlands Antilles. A consolidated version of this regulation remained in force until the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010.Oostindie and Klinkers 2001: 41–44Overheid.nl – KONINKLIJK BESLUIT van 3 maart 1951, houdende de eilandenregeling Nederlandse Antillen
The new constitution was only deemed an interim arrangement, as negotiations for a Charter for the Kingdom were already under way. On 15 December 1954 the Netherlands Antilles, Suriname and the Netherlands acceded as equal partners to an overarching Kingdom of the Netherlands, established by the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands. With this move, the United Nations deemed decolonization of the territory complete and removed the Netherlands Antilles from the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories.Oostindie and Klinkers 2001: 47–56 Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles on 1 January 1986, paving the way for a series of referendums among the remaining islands on the future of the Netherlands Antilles. Whereas the ruling parties campaigned for the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, the people voted for a restructuring of the Netherlands Antilles. The coalition campaigning for this option became the Party for the Restructured Antilles, which ruled the Netherlands Antilles for much of the time until its dissolution on 10 October 2010.
Of the five islands, Sint Maarten and Curaçao voted for status aparte, Saba and Bonaire voted for closer ties with the Netherlands, and Sint Eustatius voted to stay within the Netherlands Antilles.
On 26 November 2005, a Round Table Conference (RTC) was held between the governments of the Netherlands, Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles, and each island in the Netherlands Antilles. The final statement to emerge from the RTC stated that autonomy for Curaçao and Sint Maarten, plus a new status for Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba (BES) would come into effect by 1 July 2007. On 12 October 2006, the Netherlands reached an agreement with Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba: this agreement would make these islands special municipalities.
On 3 November 2006, Curaçao and Sint Maarten were granted autonomy in an agreement, but this agreement was rejected by the then island council of Curaçao on 28 November. The Curaçao government was not sufficiently convinced that the agreement would provide enough autonomy for Curaçao. On 9 July 2007 the new island council of Curaçao approved the agreement previously rejected in November 2006. A subsequent referendum approved the agreement as well.
The acts of parliament integrating the "BES" islands ( Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba) into the Netherlands were given royal assent on 17 May 2010. After ratification by the Netherlands (6 July), the Netherlands Antilles (20 August), and Aruba (4 September), the Kingdom act amending the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands with regard to the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles was signed by the three countries in the closing Round Table Conference on 9 September 2010 in The Hague.
|Curaçao||Willemstad||444||Dutch and Papiamento||Capital of the Netherlands Antilles|
|Aruba||Oranjestad||180||Netherlands Antillean guilder|
(from 1986 Aruban florin)
|Seceded on 1 January 1986|
|Sint Maarten||Philipsburg||34||Netherlands Antillean guilder||Dutch and English||Were parts of the island territory of the Windward Islands until 1 January 1983.|
|Willemstad||980 (before 1986)|
|Netherlands Antillean guilder|
There are also several smaller islands, like Klein Curaçao and Klein Bonaire, that belong to one of the island countries or special municipalities.
Sint Maarten covers approximately 40% of the island of Saint Martin; the remaining northern part of the island – the Collectivity of Saint-Martin – is an overseas territory of France.
The head of state was the monarch of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, who was represented in the Netherlands Antilles by a governor. The governor and the council of ministers, chaired by a prime minister, formed the government. The Netherlands Antilles had a unicameral legislature called the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles. Its 22 members were fixed in number for the islands making up the Netherlands Antilles: fourteen for Curaçao, three each for Sint Maarten and Bonaire, and one each for Saba and Sint Eustatius.
The Netherlands Antilles were not part of the European Union, but instead listed as overseas countries and territories (OCTs). This status was kept for all the islands after dissolution, and will be kept until at least 2015.
Almost all consumer and capital goods were imported, with Venezuela, the United States, and Mexico being the major suppliers, as well as the Dutch government which supports the islands with substantial development aid. Poor soils and inadequate water supplies hampered the development of agriculture. The Antillean guilder had a fixed exchange rate with the United States dollar of 1.79:1.
The language Papiamento was predominant on Curaçao and Bonaire (as well as the neighboring island of Aruba). This creole language descended from Portuguese and West African languages with a strong admixture of Dutch, plus subsequent lexical contributions from Spanish and English. An English-based creole dialect, formally known as Netherlands Antilles Creole, was the native dialect of the inhabitants of Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten.
After a decades-long debate, English and Papiamentu were made official languages alongside Dutch language in early March 2007. "Antilles allow Papiamentu as official language", The Times Hague/Amsterdam/Rotterdam, 9 March 2007, page 2. Legislation was produced in Dutch, but parliamentary debate was in Papiamentu or English, depending on the island. Due to a massive influx of immigrants from Spanish-speaking territories such as the Dominican Republic in the Windward Islands, and increased tourism from Venezuela in the Leeward Islands, Spanish had also become increasingly used.
The majority of the population were followers of the Christian faith, with a Protestant majority in Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten, and a Roman Catholic majority in Bonaire, Curaçao and Saba. Curaçao also hosted a sizeable group of followers of the Jewish religion, descendants of a Portugal group of Sephardic Jews that arrived from Amsterdam and Brazil from 1654. In 1982, there was a population of about 2,000 Muslims, with an Islamic association and a mosque in the capital.
Most Netherlands Antilleans were Dutch citizens and this status permitted and encouraged the young and university-educated to emigrate to the Netherlands. This exodus was considered to be to the islands' detriment, as it created a brain drain. On the other hand, immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Anglophone Caribbean and Colombia had increased their presence on these islands in later years.
Tourism and overwhelming media presence from the United States increased the regional United States influence. On all the islands, the holiday of Carnival had become an important event after its importation from other Caribbean and Latin American countries in the 1960s. Festivities included "jump-up" parades with beautifully colored costumes, floats, and live bands as well as beauty contests and other competitions. Carnival on the islands also included a middle-of-the-night j'ouvert (juvé) parade that ended at sunrise with the burning of a straw King Momo, cleansing the island of sins and bad luck.
Baseball is by far the most popular sport. Several players have made it to the Major Leagues, such as Xander Bogaerts, Andrelton Simmons, Hensley Meulens, Randall Simon, Andruw Jones, Kenley Jansen, Jair Jurrjens, Roger Bernadina, Sidney Ponson, Didi Gregorius, Shairon Martis, Wladimir Balentien, and Yurendell DeCaster. Xander Bogaerts competed in the 2013 World Series for the Boston Red Sox against the St. Louis Cardinals. Andruw Jones played for the Atlanta Braves in the 1996 World Series hitting two home runs in his first game against the New York Yankees.
Three athletes from the former Netherlands Antilles competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics. They, alongside one athlete from South Sudan, competed under the banner of Independent Olympic Athletes.
The Netherlands Antilles, though a non-existing entity since 2010, are allowed to field teams at the Chess Olympiad under this name, because the Curaçao Chess Federation remains officially registered as representing the dissolved country in the FIDE Directory.