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Netherlands Antilles
Nederlandse Antillen
Antia Hulandes
Flag Coat of arms
MottoLatin: Libertate unanimus
("Unified by freedom")
AnthemAnthem without a title
(and largest city)
12°7′N 68°56′W / 12.117°N 68.933°W / 12.117; -68.933
Official language(s) Dutch, English, Papiamentu[1]
 -  Monarch HM Queen Beatrix
 -  Governor Frits Goedgedrag
 -  Prime Minister Emily de Jongh-Elhage
constitutional monarchy part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands 
 -  Total 800 km2 (184th)
309 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) Negligible
 -  2009 estimate 197,041[2] (185th)
 -  2001 census 175,653 
 -  Density 246/km2 (51st)
593/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2003 estimate
 -  Total $ 2.45 billion (180th)
 -  Per capita $ 11,400 (2003 est.) (79th)
HDI (2003) n/a (unranked) (n/a)
Currency Netherlands Antillean guilder (ANG)
Time zone (UTC-4)
Internet TLD .an
Calling code +599
Spanish, though not among the official languages, is a widely spoken language on the islands.

The Netherlands Antilles (Dutch: About this sound Nederlandse Antillen , Papiamento: Antia Hulandes[3]), previously known as the Netherlands West Indies or Dutch Antilles/West Indies, is part of the Lesser Antilles and consists of two groups of islands in the Caribbean Sea: Curaçao and Bonaire, just off the Venezuelan coast; and Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten, located southeast of the Virgin Islands. The islands form an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The islands' economy depends mostly upon tourism, international financial services, international commerce, shipping, and petroleum.

The Netherlands Antilles are scheduled to be dissolved as a unified political entity on October 10, 2010, so that the five constituent islands will attain new constitutional statuses within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.[4]



In the 18th century St. Eustatius was the most important Dutch island in the Caribbean.

Both the leeward (Alonso de Ojeda, 1499) and windward (Christopher Columbus, 1493) island groups were discovered by Spain, but only the leeward islands were settled by them. In the 17th century, the islands were conquered by the Dutch West India Company and were used as military outposts and trade bases. In the late 18th century St. Eustatius became the most prosperous island of the Northeastern Caribbean, earning the nickname "The Golden Rock." Both Curaçao and Sint Eustatius became prominent in the slave trade. Slavery was abolished in 1863.

In 1954, the status of the islands was up-graded from a colonial territory to a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as a separate country within the kingdom. The island of Aruba was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 1986, when it was granted status aparte, becoming yet another part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands as a separate country within the kingdom.

Between June 2000 and April 2005, each island of the Netherlands Antilles had a referendum on its future status. The four options that could be voted on were:

  • closer ties with the Netherlands
  • remaining within the Netherlands Antilles
  • autonomy as a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands (status aparte)
  • independence

Of the five islands, Sint Maarten and Curaçao voted for status aparte, Saba and Bonaire voted for closer ties to the Netherlands, and Sint Eustatius voted to stay within the Netherlands Antilles.

On November 26, 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, Saba, and Sint Eustatius would come into effect by July 1, 2007.[5] On October 12, 2006, the Netherlands reached an agreement with Saba, Bonaire, and Sint Eustatius; this agreement would make these islands special municipalities.[6]

On November 3, 2006, Curaçao and Sint Maarten were granted autonomy in an agreement,[7] but this agreement was rejected by the then island council of Curaçao on November 28.[8] The Curaçao government was not sufficiently convinced that the agreement would provide enough autonomy for Curaçao.[9] On July 9, 2007 the new island council of Curaçao approved the agreement previously rejected in November 2006.[10]


The head of state is the ruling monarch of the Netherlands, who is represented in the Netherlands Antilles by a governor. A council of ministers, chaired by a prime minister, forms the local government. Together with the governor, who holds responsibility for external affairs and defense, it forms the executive branch of the government.

The legislative branch is two-layered. Delegates of the islands are represented in the government of the Netherlands Antilles, but each island has its own government that takes care of the daily affairs on the island.

The Netherlands Antilles are not part of the European Union. Since 2006 the Islands have given rise to diplomatic disputes between Venezuela and the Netherlands. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez claims that the Netherlands might allow the United States to install military bases that would be necessary for what he views as a planned U.S. invasion of Venezuela.[11] Curaçao is under consideration as a Cooperative Security Location, not a full Main Operating Base.

Future status

Map of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Netherlands and the Caribbean islands are in the same scale.

The Netherlands Antilles is to be disbanded on October 10, 2010.[4] The idea of the Netherlands Antilles as a state never enjoyed the full support of all of the islands, and political relations between islands were often strained. Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986, and formed its own state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The desire for secession has also been strong in Sint Maarten.

In 2004, a commission of the governments of the Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands reported on a future status for the Netherlands Antilles. The commission advised a revision of the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in order to dissolve the Netherlands Antilles.

Two new associated states within the Kingdom of the Netherlands would be formed, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Meanwhile, Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius would become a direct part of the Netherlands as special municipalities (bijzondere gemeente), a form of "public body" (openbaar lichaam) as outlined in article 134 of the Dutch Constitution. These municipalities will resemble ordinary Dutch municipalities in most ways (they will have a mayor, aldermen and a municipal council, for example) and will have to introduce most Dutch law. Residents of these three islands will also be able to vote in Dutch national and European elections.

There are, however, some derogations for these islands. Social security, for example, will not be on the same level as it is in the Netherlands. Furthermore, it was decided in November 2008 that the official currency will be the U.S. dollar and not the Euro.[12] All five of the island territories may also continue to access the Common Court of Justice of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles (with the Joint Court probably receiving a new name). The three islands will also have to involve the Dutch Minister of Foreign Relations before they can make agreements with countries in the region.

Originally the term used for Bonaire, Saba, and St. Eustatius to describe their expected association with the Netherlands was "Kingdom Islands" (Koninkrijkseilanden). The Dutch province of North Holland has offered the three new municipalities the opportunity to become part of the province.

Additionally, the Kingdom government would consist of the government of the Netherlands and one mandated minister per Caribbean country. The special municipalities would be represented in the Kingdom Government by the Netherlands, as they can vote for the Dutch parliament.

The Netherlands has proposed that the Treaty of Lisbon allow the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba to opt for the status of Outermost Region (OMR) also called Ultra Peripheral Region (UPR), if they wish.[13]


Map showing French Saint-Martin (north) and Dutch Sint Maarten (south).

The Netherland Antilles have no major administrative divisions, although each island has its own local government.

The two island groups of which the Netherlands Antilles consists are:


The flat landscape of Klein Bonaire.
Map of the Netherlands Antilles

The windward islands are all of volcanic origin and hilly, leaving little ground suitable for agriculture. The leeward islands have a mixed volcanic and coral origin. The highest point is Mount Scenery, 877 metres (2,828 ft), on Saba (also the highest point in all the Kingdom of the Netherlands).

The Netherlands Antilles have a tropical climate, with warm weather all year round. The windward Islands are subject to hurricanes in the summer months.


Tourism, petroleum transshipment and oil refinement (on Curaçao), as well as offshore finance are the mainstays of this small economy, which is closely tied to the outside world. The islands enjoy a high per capita income and a well-developed infrastructure as compared with other countries in the region.

Almost all consumer and capital goods are 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 hamper the development of agriculture. The Antillean guilder has a fixed exchange rate with the United States dollar of 1.79:1.


A large part of the Netherlands Antilleans descends from European colonists and African slaves that were brought and traded here from the 17th to 19th century. The rest of the population originates from other Caribbean islands, Latin America, East Asia and elsewhere in the world. In Curaçao there is a strong Jewish element going back to the 17th century.

Papiamentu is predominant on Curaçao and Bonaire (as well as the neighboring island of Aruba). This creole descends from Portuguese and West African languages with a strong admixture of Dutch, plus subsequent lexical contributions from Spanish and English. English is the mother tongue of the inhabitants of Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten.

After a decades-long debate, English and Papiamentu have been made official languages alongside Dutch in early March 2007.[1] Legislation is produced in Dutch but parliamentary debate is 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 is also becoming increasingly known.

The majority of the population are 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 hosts a sizeable group of followers of the Jewish faith, descendants of a Portuguese group of Sephardic Jews that arrived from Amsterdam and Brazil from 1654.

Most Netherlands Antilleans are Dutch citizens and this status permits and encourages the young and university-educated to emigrate to the Netherlands. This exodus is considered to be to the islands' detriment as it creates a brain drain. On the other hand, immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Anglophone Caribbean and Colombia have increased their presence in recent years.


A Bulawaya dance in Curaçao.

The origins of the population and location of the islands give the Netherlands Antilles a mixed culture.

Tourism and overwhelming media presence from the United States have increased the regional United States influence. On all the islands, the holiday of Carnival has become an important event after its importation from other Caribbean and Latin American countries in the 1960s. Festivities include "jump-up" parades with beautifully colored costumes, floats, and live bands as well as beauty contests and other competitions. Carnival on the islands also includes a middle-of-the-night j'ouvert (juvé) parade that ends at sunrise with the burning of a straw King Momo, cleansing the island of sins and bad luck.

Miscellaneous topics

Unlike the metropolitan Netherlands, same-sex marriages cannot be performed here, but those performed in other jurisdictions are recognized.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Antilles allow Papiamentu as official language", The Times Hague/Amsterdam/Rotterdam, 9 March 2007, page 2.
  2. ^ World Gazetteer
  3. ^ Papiamentu/Ingles Dikshonario, Ratzlaff, Betty; pg. 11
  4. ^ a b "Antillen opgeheven op 10-10-2010" (in Dutch). NOS. 2009-10-01. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  5. ^ Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (2005-11-26). "›Closing statement of the first Round Table Conference". Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  6. ^ Radio Netherlands (2006-10-12). "Caribbean islands become Dutch municipalities". Retrieved 2007-02-02. 
  7. ^ "Curaçao and St Maarten to have country status". 2006-11-03. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  8. ^ Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (2006-11-29). "Curacao rejects final agreement". Retrieved 2007-02-02. 
  9. ^ Curaçao verwerpt slotakkoord
  10. ^ The Daily Herald St. Maarten (2007-07-09). "Curaçao IC ratifies November 2 accord". Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  11. ^ Chavez Says Holland Plans to Help US Invade Venezuela
  12. ^ "New status for The Netherlands Antilles - FAQs about the BES islands". Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  13. ^ The provision reads:
    Article 311 shall be repealed. A new Article 311a shall be inserted, with the wording of Article 299(2), first subparagraph, and Article 299(3) to (6); the text shall be amended as follows:
    (e) the following new paragraph shall be added at the end of the Article:
    "6. The European Council may, on the initiative of the Member State concerned, adopt a decision amending the status, with regard to the Union, of a Danish, French or Netherlands country or territory referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2. The European Council shall act unanimously after consulting the Commission."
    Treaty of Lisbon Article 2, point 293

External links

General information


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

North America : Caribbean : Netherlands Antilles
Quick Facts
Capital Willemstad
Government parliamentary
Currency Netherlands Antillean guilder (ANG)
Area 960 sq km
Population 219,958 (July 2006 est.)
Language Dutch (official), Papiamento (a Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch-English dialect) predominates, English widely spoken, Spanish
Religion Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Seventh-Day Adventist
Calling Code +599
Internet TLD .an
Time Zone UTC -4

The Netherlands Antilles is scheduled to be dissolved as a unified political entity on October 10, 2010. The five constituent islands will attain new constitutional statuses within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Curacao and Sint Maarten will become autonomous states within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius will become special municipalities (bijzondere gemeenten) of the Netherlands proper.

Map of Netherlands Antilles
Map of Netherlands Antilles

Leeward Islands

Windward Islands


Once the center of the Caribbean slave trade, the island of Curaçao was hard hit by the abolition of slavery in 1863. Its prosperity was restored in the early 20th century with the construction of oil refineries to service the newly discovered Venezuelan oil fields. The island of Sint Maarten is shared with France; its northern portion is named "Saint-Martin" and is part of Guadeloupe.

The Antilles are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but with full internal autonomy.


Tropical; ameliorated by northeast trade winds.


Five islands in two groups. Generally hilly, volcanic interiors.

Get in

By plane

There is an airport on each island.

By boat

Ports and harbors at Kralendijk, Philipsburg, Willemstad.


The different islands of the Netherlands Antilles vary enormously and so do the accommodations. On Bonaire it is forbidden to build higher than three floors up, resulting in many smaller accommodations scattered along the islands coast. On the largest island Curaçao, you will find basically any kind of accommodation, from large hotel chains to small privately owned properties that you can rent per week or even per day. Some good places to stay include:

  • Plaza Resort Bonaire, J.A. Abraham Boulevard 80, Kralendijk, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles, 781-821-1012 (), [1]. Enjoy the best of Bonaire scuba diving at Plaza Resort Bonaire, a dive resort that offers spacious accommodations in a magnificent sun-drenched setting. Less than five minutes' drive from the airport, our air-conditioned Bonaire villas and suites feature beautiful views of the lagoon, marina, or ocean. With an on-site PADI dive center and invigorating activity options like snorkeling and windsurfing, you'll soon discover why we are the perfect destination for a sunny vacation in Bonaire. $190-$300 USD per room, per night.  edit
  • Harbour Village Beach Club Hotel Bonaire
  • Habitat dive resorts [2]
  • Villas Bonaire [3]
  • Coral Paradise Bonaire Resort [4]
  • Flamingo Villa [5]
  • Floris Suite [6]
  • Kura Holanda [7]
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:




Proper noun

Netherlands Antilles

  1. Autonomous territory in the Caribbean part of The Netherlands. Official name: Netherlands Antilles.


See also


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