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State structure and Politics

The government of the Netherlands Antilles is formed by a governor and the Council of Ministers. The Queen appoints the Governor, who in turn appoints the Ministers.

Traditionally, each island of the Netherlands Antilles provides ministers for the central government. The Governor has a double function: he is both head of government and representative of the Royal House in the Kingdom territories. He is not responsible for the decisions and actions of the Government. The Council of Ministers is, however, accountable to the representative body of the people, the Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles (comparable to the Lower House of Parliament in the Netherlands).

In the Netherlands Antilles, there are two levels of government, the National Government and the (five) Island Governments. The government of the Antilles is based in Willemstad on Curacao.

The Governor watches over the general interest of the Kingdom and sees to it that no decisions are taken by legislative and administrative bodies in the Netherlands Antilles that could harm the unity of the Kingdom or that are in conflict with the provisions of the Kingdom Statute or with an international regulation. The executive power rests with the Governor in cooperation with the Council of Ministers.

The Governor is assisted in this by an Advisory Council, which consists of at least five members appointed by him and advises on all draft state regulations, state laws, state decrees containing general measures and the like. The Governor is the chairman of this Council, but he exercises this function only on special occasions. A vice-president, appointed from among the members of the council, presides over the ordinary meetings.

In the Netherlands Antilles, the States represent the population. They are elected in general elections for four years. The Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles consists of 22 members (Curaçao 14, Bonaire 3, Sint Maarten 3 and Saba and Sint Eustatius 1 each). Together with the governor, they form the legislative power. The Parliament has the right of amendment, of inquiry and of interpellation. It also has the right of initiative. It must approve the national budget.

Each island territory has its own government, consisting of the island council, the executive board and the governor. The Island Councils of Curaçao (21 members), Bonaire (9 members), Sint Maarten (11 members), Saba (5 members) and Sint Eustatius (5 members) represent the population of the island territory. The members are elected for four years. The Executive Council and the Island Governor can be compared to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in a Dutch municipality. The Executive Council forms the daily administration of the island territory and executes the decisions of the Island Council.

In the referendum held on 8 April 2005 on St. Eustatius, the island territory chose to remain part of the Netherlands Antilles. Because of the fairly generally accepted plans to dissolve the Netherlands Antilles as a country, however, it is more likely that the island, like the islands of Saba and Bonaire, will be given a new status as an island of the kingdom, a status to be worked out that will give the islands more direct ties with the Netherlands.

The Netherlands Antilles have not existed in their current form since 10 October 2010. Since that date, Curaçao and Sint Maarten have been independent countries within the Kingdom. Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are now special municipalities of the Netherlands.

Since 10 October 2010, the municipalities of Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius have had a separate status within the Netherlands. The three special municipalities have two levels of government and are governed as a public body by:

The Kingdom Representative for the public entities of St. Eustatius, Saba and Bonaire, in terms of tasks comparable to a King's Commissioner with regard to municipalities, forms the link between the government in The Hague and the three public entities of the former Netherlands Antilles. He or she, who has his or her seat in Bonaire, is appointed by the crown for a period of six years, on the recommendation of the Minister of Internal Affairs. The Representative of the National Government has the important task to promote the cooperation between the civil servants of the three public entities amongst themselves as well as with the island governments and reports about this to the Minister of the Interior every six months. Since 1 May 2011, the Representative of the National Government is Wilbert Stolte from the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), as of 1 December 2011 Julian Woodley is the first permanent acting Representative of the National Government. For the current political situation see chapter history.


The economy of the Windward Islands is based on tourism and (financial) services. The Antillean economy is therefore strongly focused on foreign countries. It is largely dependent on imports. The Netherlands Antilles are not a member of the European Union, but they are associated with it. That offers a number of trade advantages. The Antillean currency is the Antillean guilder. This is linked to the American dollar.



Derksen,G / Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba

Soesbergen, M. van / Bovenwindse eilanden

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Last updated May 2024
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