Dutch ministers visit Surinam

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Two-day visit will see the two countries touch on issues such as better co-operation on security and drug trafficking.

13 May 2008

SURINAM - Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen are in Surinam for a two-day visit. They will hold talks with President Ronald Venetiaan and Foreign Minister Lygia Kraag-Keteldijk on issues including better co-operation on security and drug trafficking. Balkenende will then fly on to a summit of world leaders in Peru's capital Lima.

Surinam, a sparsely populated country on the northern coast of South America, gained independence from The Netherlands in 1975. There is a large Surinamese minority in The Netherlands, and thousands of people travel the 9,000-kilometre journey between the two countries every week.

Verhagen says he considers it his duty to foster better ties between the two countries. He admits that there have recently been communication problems, but believes that mutual interests have recently led to an improvement.
Last week, Dutch Socialist Party MP Harry van Bommel called for The Netherlands to apologise for the slave trade, an aspect of its colonial history in Surinam. However Balkenende says that Surinam is more than just a country of ex-slaves. He prefers to emphasise the multi-cultural aspects of its society.
In the past, Surinamese would have been keen to receive Dutch financial aid in the face of rising food and fuel prices. Since independence, the question of aid has been fraught by disputes, and Balkenende is expected to encourage the country to become more self-reliant. At present, any funds received from The Netherlands must be matched by the same amount from Surinam's government.

Another topic of discussion is likely to be the '100 percent' checks by Dutch customs officials on passengers flying to The Netherlands from Surinam. The large number of drugs traffickers is given as the reason for the controversial policy, under which many people have to undergo thorough body searches.

[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]

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