Balkenende hails Curacao autonomy vote
The prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, has welcomed the outcome of the referendum held on Curacao backing plans for greater autonomy.
THE HAGUE - The prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, has welcomed the outcome of the referendum held on Curacao backing plans for greater autonomy. Friday's referendum saw 52 percent vote in favour, with 48 percent against plans to make the island an autonomous territory within the Netherlands.
Balkenende said the plans now can go ahead. He has congratulated his Antillean counterpart, Emily de Jongh-Elhage, on the result.
The deputy minister for kingdom relations, Ank Bijleveld, voiced both relief over the outcome and concern at the narrow margin, and urged Curacao's parties to overcome their differences. She stressed that the Final accord between the Netherlands and Curacao is definitive and no longer open to debate.
The Dutch government has pledged close to EUR two billions to write off 70 percent of the island's debt provided it retains oversight of Curacao's justice and state finances. The Antillean opposition has denounced the Dutch plan for increased administrative powers as "neocolonialism".
The administrative restructuring of the five-island archipelago of the Dutch Antilles is planned for next year. The Dutch government wants Sint Maarten also to become an autonomous territory of the Netherlands.
Aruba became autonomous in 1986. The less-populated islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are to become municipalities within the Netherlands.
Radio Netherlands / Expatica