Yesterday, the world lost one country, but gained two new ones. Yesterday, The Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist, and Curaçao and Sint Maarten have become semi-autonomous countries. Though they will still be part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Much like Aruba, which became autonomous in 1986.
The other islands; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, will become municipalities of The Netherlands, they will be part of the country proper. Saba has an active volcanic mountain, Mount Scenery, which at 877 m is now the highest point of The Netherlands proper.
The Kingdom of The Netherlands now consists of four autonomous countries: The Netherlands proper, Arbua, and now Curaçao and Sint Maarten.
Interestingly, none of the islands in the former The Netherlands Antilles voted for full independence. I assume they want to cling on to their Dutch passports and a sense of European security (and prosperity) that comes with it. The Netherlands will continue to look after defence and foreign policy for the Kingdom.
Why do the Dutch insist on maintaining these vestiges of a colonial empire? Why do they hold onto these relics of the Dutch West Indies? The Netherlands, (that is the country in western Europe proper) would be better off without these little debt-ridden Caribbean islands. It would solve many of the political (decolonisation), social (immigration) and economic (debts) problems in the Netherlands.
But the Dutch may see a more long term, strategic reason for holding onto the last strings of Empire. Curaçao played a major role in the Second World War. That is where Royal Dutch Shell was based (along with a few others) when the Netherlands was under Nazi occupation. Venezuela is a stone throws away, and the islands are strategically placed to be a logistical and cultural hub between Europe, and North and South America. They may not become the Singapore of the Caribbean, but the Dutch, if they play their cards right, might have a strategic advantage to maintain their presence in the West Indies.
The Dutch are a great seafaring people and are noble traders. Not only can they make land from the sea, but they can make two countries out of one, and slightly increase their borders by three tropical islands.
Photo: Flags of The Netherlands and the former Dutch Antilles with a portrait of Queen Beatrix. Thanks to Emiliano Granado.