The Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands uses the word gelijkwaardigheid (equivalency) as opposed to gelijkheid (equality) between the four countries (the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten) in the kingdom.

I am wondering about the significance of that distinction. Obviously, the Netherlands is very different from the other three countries: it's bigger (economically and by population) and it's in the European Union whereas the others are in the Caribbean.

This distinction is mentioned by Dutch state news NOS in its reporting of Saint Maarten's request for the UN special rapporteur on racism to investigate the Netherlands. The allegation is that the government of the Netherlands withholds funds to Sint Maarten until it passes certain reforms. The article quotes a Dutch state news correspondent saying:

De hoogste wet in het koninkrijk spreekt van gelijkwaardige landen, Curaçao, Aruba, Sint-Maarten en Nederland. Maar dat is niet zo: Nederland deelt als rijkste land de lakens uit. Het gevoel van racisme komt voor uit deze verhoudingen.

(loosely translated)

The highest law in the kingdom refers to an equivalency relation between the countries, Curaçao, Aruba, Sint Maarten, and the Netherlands. But that is not true: as the richest country, the Netherlands sets the rules. The feeling of racism comes from this relationship.

That the Netherlands is the largest and wealthiest of the four countries isn't new. As such, I'm wondering if there is any background as to what the equivalency relation in the charter means. Perhaps there has been debate discussing that description when the charter was drafted?

  • 1
    Two comments: first, translating gelijkwaardige landen as an equivalency relation between the countries and deze verhoudingen as this relationship suggests a connection in the English that is absent from the Dutch. (Also, in the second case, you've changed the number from plural to singular, though I don't understand why it's plural in the original.) Second, "that the Netherlands is largest...is not new," certainly, but the point of that sentence seems not to be als rijkste land so much as deelt...de lakens uit, i.e., that the smaller countries have inadequate say in the kingdom.
    – phoog
    Mar 17, 2021 at 13:25
  • @phoog I'm not sure about better alternatives for the translation. Feel free to edit them if you can improve them. As for being the largest, I would reason that the verhoudingen have always skewed with the largest and richest country holding the power (from a realpolitik perspective). As for having an equal say (or adequate say, but then what does that mean?), I'm not sure if that's what's meant in the charter. That would answer my question. Again notice the equal/equivalency and gelijk/gelijkwaardig distinction.
    – JJJ
    Mar 17, 2021 at 13:38
  • I suppose the "relationships" in the text are the 6 relationships between the 4 nations. Of those 6, the 3 relationships between the Netherlands and the 3 islands are most the tense, while the inter-island relations are much less tense.
    – MSalters
    Mar 19, 2021 at 11:15

1 Answer 1


Of course there has been debating about these words. You can find them in the morning and afternoon debates on the 14th of April 2010. The changes of 10-10-10 (first time I write a date where the order or M/D/Y doesn't matter ;)) were discussed in file number (Kamerdossier) 32213.

The 'equivalency relation' means that (the parliaments of) all countries should be in control of their own country. Or -let's be honest- in other words: the Caribbean countries shouldn't depend on (the country) The Netherlands.

This analysis is supported by the following exchange between Mr. Remkes (MP for the VVD), Madam Eisden (politician from Curaçao on behalf of MAN/NPA/FK) and Mr. Lee for the Aruban People's Party from the morning debate:

De heer Remkes (VVD):

Gelijkwaardigheid is iets anders dan gelijkheid.

De heer Lee:

Ik wil kwijt dat Aruba wel wil praten over het rapport over het democratisch deficit en alles wat daarin staat. De gelegenheid moet zich echter nog voordoen. Het is in opdracht van het POK gedaan, dus het moet ook in die arena worden besproken, samen met alle koninkrijkspartners. Die gelegenheid heeft zich nog niet voorgedaan, maar dat willen wij wel doen, zodat het parlement van Nederland, de Staten van Aruba, de Staten van de Nederlandse Antillen en/of parlementen van het toekomstige Curaçao en Sint-Maarten zich daarover kunnen uitspreken. Dat moeten we dan samen doen, zoals we ook samen de opdracht hebben gegeven. Dat is het standpunt van Aruba.

De heer Remkes (VVD):

Deze laatste opmerking, die ik overigens als constructief ervaar, onderstreept natuurlijk de dwaasheid van de volgorde in de besluitvorming. Er zijn kennelijk wensen bij politieke partijen die zeggen dat het Statuut zoals het nu voorligt, onvoldoende voorziet in de opheffing van het democratisch deficit, terwijl wij nu wel ja zeggen. Van ons wordt althans gevraagd om ja te zeggen tegen het wetsvoorstel. Dat de volgorde niet goed is, is precies datgene wat ik probeer te betogen.

Mevrouw Eisden:

Over scheve verhoudingen gesproken: "gelijkwaardig" is dus niet "gelijk", volgens de heer Remkes. Vindt de heer Remkes het niet opmerkelijk dat hij slechts selectief verhoudingen wenst gelijk te trekken waar het voordeel voor Nederland ligt, en die verhoudingen niet wenst gelijk te trekken op het gebied van politie, op het gebied van financiën en op het gebied van de autonome taken die reeds, ingevolge het Statuut, zijn toegekend aan de landen? Hoe verklaart de heer Remkes dat? Waarom de selectieve wens om scheve verhoudingen gelijk te trekken?

De heer Remkes (VVD):

Laten wij het voorbeeld van de politie, waarbij wij vanmiddag nader zullen stilstaan, er maar even uithalen. Ik heb in het wetgevingsoverleg gezegd dat men wat mij betreft op Curaçao en op Sint-Maarten ten aanzien van de rechtshandhavingsketen de eigen broek moet kunnen ophouden, maar dat het op dit moment alleen nog niet zo ver is. Op termijn wil ik die verhoudingen volstrekt respecteren. Een andere opmerking betreft een punt waarvan ik de indruk heb dat mevrouw Eisden het inmiddels is vergeten. Voor deze hele operatie ligt een rekening van tegen de 2,5 mld. op tafel. Die ligt hier. Die ligt niet daar, die ligt hier.

Mevrouw Eisden:

Ik weet niet wat ik over het antwoord over het geld moet zeggen ...

De heer Remkes (VVD):

Nee, dat begrijp ik wel!

Roughly translated by JJJ:

Mr. Remkes (VVD):

'Equivalency' is different from equality

Mr. Lee:

I would like to say that Aruba is willing to talk about the report on democratic deficit and everything in that report. The opportunity, however, still has to present itself. This was conducted on behalf of the parliamentary interrogation committee so it has to be discussed in that arena, together with all the kingdom partners. That opportunity hasn't presented, but we are willing, so that the parliament of the Netherland, the states of Aruba, the states of the Dutch Antilles and/or the the parliaments of the future Curaçao and Sint Maarten can speak their mind on that. We have to do that together, just like we ordered [the report] together. That's Aruba's point of view.

Mr. Remkes (VVD):

This last remark, which I experience as constructive, underlines of course the folly of the order in the decision making process. Apparently there are wishes among political parties which say the Statute in its current form, insufficiently resolves the abolition of the democratic deficit, while we are now saying yes. We have been asked to approve the current law proposal. That the order is wrong is exactly the point I'm trying to make.

Madam Eisden:

Regarding the imbalanced relationships: 'equivalency' is apparently not the same as equality, according to Mr. Remkes. Does Mr. Remkes not find it remarkable that he just wishes to balance the imbalanced relationships where the Netherlands reaps benefits, and not to balance the imbalanced relationships in the areas of policing, finance and autonomous tasks which have been assigned to the countries by the statute? How does Mr. Remkes explain that? Why the selective wishes to balance the relationships?

Mr. Remkes (VVD):

Let us use the example of policing, which we will look at further this afternoon. I have said in the lawmaking consultation that Curaçao and Sint Maarten should hold up their own pants if it's up to me, but that at this moment it's not that far [developed]. In time, I want to respect those relationships completely. Another remark concerns something I think Madam Eisden has since forgotten. For the entire operation there's a bill of 2.5 billion on the table. That bill lies with us, not there, but here.

Madam Eisden:

I am not sure how to reply to the answer about money...

Mr. Remkes (VVD):

No, that I understand!

  • 1
    Can you summarize the debate, particularly since the links you provided are in Dutch?
    – divibisan
    Jul 21, 2021 at 14:42
  • I think "The 'equivalency relation' means that (the parlements of) all countries should be in control of their own country." is my summary. Jul 21, 2021 at 17:24
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    I guess this is based on the exchange between Remkes and Eisden in your first link? It doesn't seem like the friendliest exchange but I do agree with your assessment.
    – JJJ
    Jul 21, 2021 at 17:29
  • Correct, while members of other parties have made similar statements in this debate. And Remkes is a real Groninger: he won't use more words than strictly necessary. Jul 21, 2021 at 17:35
  • 1
    I've edited in a quote of that exchange including a rough translation. With the translation I think it's a bit clearer for others who don't read Dutch.
    – JJJ
    Jul 21, 2021 at 18:27

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