Kingdom of the Netherlands

This article is about the sovereign state. For the constituent country with the same name, see Netherlands. For other uses, see Netherlands (disambiguation).
Kingdom of the Netherlands
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "Je maintiendrai" (French)
"Ik zal handhaven" (Dutch)
"I will uphold"[note 1]
Anthem: "Wilhelmus" (Dutch)
and largest city
Amsterdam[note 2]
52°22′N 4°53′E / 52.367°N 4.883°E / 52.367; 4.883
Official languages Dutch (de facto)
Regional languages
Demonym Dutch
(non-sovereign parts)
Government Democratic parliamentary
constitutional monarchy
with federal elements
   Monarch Willem-Alexander
   Chairman of the Council of Ministers[note 4] Mark Rutte
   Minister Plenipotentiary
of Aruba
Edwin Abath
   Minister Plenipotentiary
of Curaçao
Marvelyne Wiels[6]
   Minister Plenipotentiary
of Sint Maarten
Josianne Fleming-Artsen[7]
Independence from the Spanish Empire
   United Netherlands
26 July 1581 (Declared)
30 January 1648 (Recognised) 
   Batavian Republic
19 January 1795 
   Kingdom of Holland
5 June 1806 
   Annexation by the French Empire
1 July 1810 
   Kingdom of the Netherlands
16 March 1815 
   Charter for the Kingdom
(colonial inclusion)
15 December 1954 
   Total 42,508 km2 (136th)
16,478 sq mi
   Water (%) 18.41
   2013 estimate 17,100,715 (61st)
   Density 393/km2 (30th)
1,019/sq mi
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
   Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Date format dd-mm-yyyy
Drives on the right
Calling code
ISO 3166 code NL
Internet TLD

The Kingdom of the Netherlands (Dutch: Koninkrijk der Nederlanden; pronounced [ˈkoːnɪŋkrɛik dɛr ˈneːdərlɑndə(n)];[8] Papiamento: Reino Hulandes), commonly known as the Netherlands,[note 7] is a sovereign state and constitutional monarchy with territory in western Europe and in the Caribbean.

The four parts of the kingdom—the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten—are constituent countries (landen in Dutch) and participate on a basis of equality as partners in the kingdom.[9] In practice, however, most of the Kingdom affairs are administered by the Netherlands—which comprises roughly 98% of the Kingdom's land area and population—on behalf of the entire Kingdom. Consequently, the countries of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten are dependent on the Netherlands for matters like foreign policy and defence, although they are autonomous to a certain degree with their own parliaments.

The vast majority in land area of the constituent country of the Netherlands (as well as the Kingdom) is located in Europe, with the exception of the Caribbean Netherlands: its three special municipalities (Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius) are located in the Caribbean. The constituent countries of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten are located in the Caribbean as well.


The Kingdom of the Netherlands finds its origin in the aftermath of Napoleon’s defeat in 1813. In that year, the Netherlands regained its independence from France, which had annexed its northern neighbor in 1810, as the Sovereign Principality of the United Netherlands. The great powers of Europe, united against Napoleonic France, had decided in the secret London Protocol to establish a single state in the territories that were previously the Dutch Republic/Batavian Republic/Kingdom of Holland, the Austrian Netherlands and the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, awarding rule over this to William, Prince of Orange and Nassau, although the southern territories remained under Prussian rule until Napoleon's return from Elba.

In March 1815, amidst the turmoil of the Hundred Days, the Sovereign Prince adopted the style of "King of the Netherlands". Following Napoleon's second defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, the Vienna Congress supplied international recognition of William's unilateral move.[10] The new King of the Netherlands was also made Grand Duke of Luxembourg, a part of the Kingdom that was, at the same time, a member state of the German Confederation.

In 1830, Belgium seceded from the Kingdom, a step that was recognised by the Netherlands only in 1839. At that point, Luxembourg became a fully independent country in a personal union with the Netherlands. Luxembourg also lost more than half of its territory to Belgium. To compensate the German Confederation for that loss, the remainder of the Dutch province of Limburg received the same status that Luxembourg had enjoyed before, as a Dutch province that at the same time formed a Duchy of the German Confederation. That status was reversed when the German Confederation ceased to exist in 1867; and, at that point, Limburg reverted to its status as an ordinary Dutch province.

The origin of the administrative reform of 1954 was the 1931 Westminster Statute and the 1941 Atlantic Charter (stating the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live, and the desire for a permanent system of general security), which was signed by the Netherlands on 1 January 1942. Changes were proposed in the 7 December 1942 radio speech by Queen Wilhelmina. In this speech, the Queen, on behalf of the Dutch government in exile in London, expressed a desire to review the relations between the Netherlands and its colonies after the end of the war. After liberation, the government would call a conference to agree on a settlement in which the overseas territories could participate in the administration of the Kingdom on the basis of equality. Initially, this speech had propaganda purposes; the Dutch government had the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) in mind, and hoped to appease public opinion in the United States, which had become skeptical towards colonialism.[11]

After Indonesia became independent, a federal construction was considered too heavy, as the economies of Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles were insignificant compared to that of the Netherlands. In the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as enacted in 1954, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles each got a Minister Plenipotentiary based in the Netherlands, who had the right to participate in Dutch cabinet meetings when it discussed affairs that applied to the Kingdom as a whole, when these affairs pertained directly to Suriname and/or the Netherlands Antilles. Delegates of Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles could participate in sessions of the First and Second Chamber of the States General. An overseas member could be added to the Council of State when appropriate. According to the Charter, Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles were also allowed to alter their "Basic Law"s (Staatsregeling). The right of the two autonomous countries to leave the Kingdom, unilaterally, was not recognised; yet it also stipulated that the Charter could be dissolved by mutual consultation.[11]

Before the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands was proclaimed in 1954, Suriname, Netherlands New Guinea, and the Netherlands Antilles, formerly "Colony of Curaçao and subordinates" (Kolonie Curaçao en Onderhorige Eilanden) were colonies of the Netherlands.

Suriname was a constituent country within the Kingdom from 1954 to 1975, while the Netherlands Antilles were a constituent country from 1954 until 2010. Suriname has since become an independent republic, and the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved into the constituent countries: Aruba (since 1986), Curaçao and Sint Maarten (since 2010), and the special municipalities of the Netherlands proper, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba. Netherlands New Guinea was a dependent territory of the Kingdom until 1962, but was not an autonomous country, and was not mentioned in the Charter.

In 1955, Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard visited Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. The visit was a great success. The royal couple were welcomed enthusiastically by the local population, and the trip was widely reported in the Dutch press. Several other royal visits were to follow.[12]

In 1969, an unorganised strike on the Antillean island of Curaçao resulted in serious disturbances and looting, during which a part of the historic city centre of Willemstad was destroyed by fire. Order was restored by Dutch marines. In the same year, Suriname saw serious political instability with the Surinamese prime minister, Jopie Pengel, threatening to request military support to break a teachers’ strike.

In 1973, a new Dutch cabinet under Labour leader Joop den Uyl assumed power. In the government policy statement, the cabinet declared a wish to determine a date for the independence of Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles with the government of those nations. The Antillean government was non-committal; the same held for the Surinamese Sedney cabinet (1969–1973). The Suriname 1973 elections brought the National Party Combination (Nationale Partij Kombinatie) to power, with Henck Arron as its prime minister. The new government declared on its instatement that Suriname would be independent before 1976. This was remarkable, as independence had not been an issue during the election campaign. The Den Uyl government in The Hague now had a willing partner in Paramaribo to realise its plans for Surinamese independence. Despite vehement and emotional resistance by the Surinamese opposition, Den Uyl and Arron reached an agreement, and on 25 November 1975, Suriname became independent.[13]

In January 1986, Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles, becoming a constituent country of the Kingdom in its own right. In October 2010, the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved, leaving Curaçao and Sint Maarten to become the newest constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The Kingdom is celebrating its bicentennial in a series of festive occasions spanning from 2013 to 2015, the last being the year of the actual 200th anniversary of the Kingdom.[14][15]


The Kingdom of the Netherlands currently consists of four constituent countries: the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. Note that there is a difference between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Netherlands: the Kingdom of the Netherlands is the comprehensive sovereign state, while the Netherlands is one of its four countries. Three islands in the Caribbean Sea (Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten) each form one of the three remaining constituent countries. Three other Caribbean islands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba) are special municipalities within the country of the Netherlands. Until its dissolution, the islands formed the Netherlands Antilles, with the exception of Aruba, which left the grouping in 1986.

Constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Country Population
(1 Jan 2012)
[note 8]
Percentage of
Kingdom's population
Percentage of
Kingdom's area
Population density
 Netherlands[note 9] 16,748,205 98.32% 41,854 98.42% 396  
  Netherlands European mainland 16,725,902 98.19% 41,526 97.65% 399 [16]
 Bonaire †‡ 16,541 0.10% 294 0.69% 46 [17]
 Sint Eustatius †‡ 3,791 0.02% 21 0.05% 137 [17]
 Saba †‡ 1,971 0.01% 13 0.03% 134 [17]
 Aruba 103,504 0.61% 193 0.45% 555 [18]
 Curaçao 145,406 0.85% 444 1.04% 320 [19]
 Sint Maarten 37,429 0.22% 34 0.08% 1,101 [20]
 Kingdom of the Netherlands 17,034,544 100.00% 42,525 100.00% 397  
† Formed part of the former Netherlands Antilles.
‡ Forms part of the Caribbean Netherlands.
Map of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. All territories are in the same scale.
Tree structure of subdivisions of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, showing the geographic location of its four constituent countries.


The Netherlands is a representative parliamentary democracy organised as a unitary state. Its administration consists of the Monarch and the Council of Ministers, which is headed by a Prime Minister. The people are represented by the States General of the Netherlands, which consists of a House of Representatives and a Senate. The Netherlands is divided into 12 provinces: Drenthe, Flevoland, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Noord-Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland, and Zuid-Holland. The provinces are divided into municipalities. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands is Mark Rutte. The Netherlands has the euro as its currency, except in the special municipalities of the Caribbean Netherlands (BES islands), where the Netherlands Antillean guilder was replaced by the US dollar in 2011.[21]

Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba

The special municipalities of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba (referred to as Caribbean Netherlands or BES islands) are part of the Netherlands proper but do not form part of a province.[22] They resemble ordinary Dutch municipalities in most ways (with a mayor, aldermen, and a municipal council, for example) and are subject to the ordinary Dutch legislative process, although most of the laws of the former Netherlands Antilles are still in force as the result of an agreed "legislative restriction" until 2015. Residents of these three islands are also able to vote in Dutch national and European elections. There are, however, some derogations for these islands. Social security, for example, is not on the same level as it is in the Netherlands proper. In November 2008 it was decided to introduce the U.S. dollar in the three islands.[23] The date of introduction was 1 January 2011. The Netherlands carries the risk of exchange rate fluctuations regarding cash flows between the state and the islands.


Aruba is a centralised unitary state. Its administration consists of the Governor, who represents the Monarch, and the (Aruban) Council of Ministers, headed by a Prime Minister. The people are represented in the Estates of Aruba. The Governor of Aruba is Fredis Refunjol, and the Prime Minister is Mike Eman. It has the Aruban florin as its currency.


Curaçao is a centralised unitary state, with similar administrative characteristics to Aruba. It has the Netherlands Antillean guilder as its currency.

Sint Maarten

Sint Maarten is a centralised unitary state, with similar administrative characteristics to Aruba. It has the Netherlands Antillean guilder as its currency.


Charter and constitutions

The Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten regulate the governance of their respective countries, but are subordinate to the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Netherlands are ruled by the provisions and institutions of the Constitution for the Kingdom of the Netherlands that also constitutes and regulates the institutions of the Kingdom that are mentioned in the Charter. The Constitution is also subordinate to the Charter. The provisions in the Charter for some of these institutions are additional and are applicable only for those affairs of the Kingdom, as described in the Charter, when they affect Aruba, Curaçao, or Sint Maarten directly. In cases where affairs of the Kingdom do not affect Aruba, Curaçao, or Sint Maarten, they are dealt with according to the provisions laid down in the Constitution. In these cases the Netherlands acts alone, according to its constitution and in its capacity as the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The other three countries cannot do the same for affairs of the Kingdom that only pertain to them and not to the Netherlands proper. In these cases, the provisions of the Charter prevail.

Changes in the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands can only be made when all constituent countries agree.


King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, the reigning monarch of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. At the time this picture was taken he was still the Prince of Orange.

The Monarch and the Ministers he appoints form the Government of the Kingdom. According to Article 7 of the Charter, the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of the Council of Ministers of the Netherlands complemented by one Minister Plenipotentiary of Aruba, one Minister Plenipotentiary of Curaçao, and one Minister Plenipotentiary of Sint Maarten.[24] The Dutch Prime Minister chairs the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom.[25]

In December 2007, a Deputy Council for Kingdom Relations was established.[26][27] This deputy council prepares the meetings of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom. The establishment of such a Council has long been advocated by the Council of State of the Kingdom.[28]

The Government and the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom, along with the monarchy itself, are subject to Article 5 of the Charter that refers their regulation mainly to the Constitution for the Kingdom of the Netherlands as far as the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands does not provide for that. The Council of Ministers of the Kingdom is however a separate institution from the Council of Ministers of the Netherlands.

Two legal instruments are available at the Kingdom level: the Kingdom act (Dutch: Rijkswet) and the Order-in-Council for the Kingdom (Dutch: Algemene maatregel van Rijksbestuur). An example of a Kingdom act is the "Kingdom Act regarding Dutch citizenship" (Dutch: Rijkswet op het Nederlanderschap).

The Monarch of the Netherlands is the head of state of the Kingdom. The Monarch is represented in Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten by a governor.


The legislature of the Kingdom consists of the States General of the Netherlands and the Government. Articles 14, 16 and 17 of the Charter give some participation to the parliaments of the Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten.

Council of State

Article 13 of the Charter specifies that there is a Council of State of the Kingdom. It is (as all institutions of the Kingdom) regulated in the Constitution, but the Charter implies that at the request of Aruba, Curaçao, or Sint Maarten, a member from each of these islands can be included in the Council of State.[24] Aruba is currently exercising this right.[25] This has not always been the case; the Netherlands Antilles had no member until 1987 and Aruba had none until 2000.[29] Sint Maarten's first member of the Council of State will be former Lieutenant Governor Dennis Richardson.[30]


The Hoge Raad der Nederlanden is the supreme court of the Kingdom by virtue of the Cassation regulation for the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.[31] The basis for this regulation is article 23 of the Charter. The second paragraph of that article specifies that if an overseas country of the Kingdom so request, the Kingdom Act should provide for an additional court member from that country.[24] To date, neither Aruba, Curaçao, nor Sint Maarten has used this right.

According to Article 39 of the Charter, "civil and commercial law, the law of civil procedure, criminal law, the law of criminal procedure, copyright, industrial property, the office of notary, and provisions concerning weights and measures shall be regulated as far as possible in a similar manner in the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten". The Article further stipulates that when a drastic amendment of the existing legislation in regard to these matters is proposed, the proposal shall not be submitted to or considered by a representative assembly until the Governments in the other countries have had the opportunity to express their views on the matter.[24]

Mutual arbitration between the constituent countries and the Kingdom

In case of a conflict between a constituent country and the Kingdom, Article 12 of the Charter prescribes an administrative reconciliation procedure. This was often deemed a democratic deficit of the Kingdom, leading to the adoption of an amendment to the Charter, which entered into force on 10 October 2010. The new Article 12a specifies that in addition to the administrative reconciliation procedure, "by Kingdom Act measures shall be made allowing for the arbitration of certain conflicts, as specified by Kingdom Act, between the Kingdom and the countries."[24] The imperative formulation was the result of an amendment in the Chamber of Representatives by special delegates Evelyna Wever-Croes and J.E. Thijsen of Aruba; the original formulation was "by Kingdom Act measures can be made".[32]

The new Article 38a allows for measures to be made for arbitration between countries as well. In contrast with Article 12a, this article is not imperatively formulated.[24]

Kingdom affairs

Article 3 of the Charter specifies the Affairs of the Kingdom:

One additional Kingdom affair is specified in article 43(2):

Paragraph 2 of Article 3 specifies that "other matters may be declared to be Kingdom affairs in consultation".[24]

These Kingdom affairs are only taken care of by the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, if the affair affects Aruba, Curaçao or St. Maarten. Article 14, paragraph 3, of the Charter, foresees the handling of Kingdom affairs in all other cases by the Netherlands.[24]

On the basis of Article 38, the countries of the Kingdom can decide to adopt a Kingdom Act outside of the scope of the aforementioned Kingdom affairs. Such acts are referred to as Consensus Kingdom Acts, as they require the consent of the parliaments of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten.[24]

Foreign relations

The Kingdom negotiates and concludes international treaties and agreements. Those that do not affect Aruba, Curaçao, and / or Sint Maarten directly, are dealt with by the provisions of the Constitution (in fact by the Netherlands alone). Article 24 of the Charter specifies that when an international treaty or agreement affects Aruba, Curaçao, or Sint Maarten, the treaty or agreement concerned shall be submitted to the representative assemblies of Aruba, Curaçao, or Sint Maarten. The article further specifies that when such a treaty or agreement is submitted for the tacit approval of the States General of the Netherlands (Dutch: Staten-Generaal der Nederlanden), the Ministers Plenipotentiary may communicate their wish that the treaty or agreement concerned shall be subject to the express approval of the States General.[24]

Article 25 gives Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten the opportunity to opt out from an international treaty or agreement.[24] The treaty or agreement concerned then has to specify that the treaty or agreement does not apply to Aruba, Curaçao, or Sint Maarten.

Article 26 specifies that when Aruba, Curaçao, or Sint Maarten communicate their wish for the conclusion of an international economic or financial agreement that applies solely to the country concerned, the Government of the Kingdom shall assist in the conclusion of such an agreement, unless this would be inconsistent with the country's ties with the Kingdom.[24]

Article 27 specifies the involvement of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten in the preparations for a treaty or agreement that affects them and Article 28 specifies that Aruba, Curaçao, or Sint Maarten may, if they so desire, accede to membership of international organisations.[24]

Among other affiliations, the state is also a founding member of NATO, OECD and WTO.

Constitutional nature

Most scholars agree that it is difficult to group the constitutional arrangements of the Kingdom in one of the traditional models of state organisation, and consider the Kingdom to be a sui generis arrangement.[29][33] Instead, the Kingdom is said to have characteristics of a federal state, a confederation, a federacy, and a devolved unitary state.

The Kingdom's federal characteristics include the delineation of Kingdom affairs in the Charter, the enumeration of the constituting parts of the Kingdom in the Charter, the fact that the Charter subordinates the law of the constituting countries to the law of the Kingdom, the establishment of Kingdom institutions in the Charter, and the fact that the Kingdom has its own legislative instruments: the Kingdom act and the Order-in-Council for the Kingdom. Its confederal characteristics include the fact that the Charter can only be amended by consensus among the constituent countries; in most ordinary federations, the federal institutions themselves can change the constitution.[29]

Characteristics that point more or less to a federacy include the fact that the functioning of the institutions of the Kingdom is governed by the Constitution of the Netherlands where the Charter does not provide for them. The Charter also does not provide a procedure for the enactment of Kingdom acts; articles 81 to 88 of the Constitution of the Netherlands also apply for Kingdom acts, be it with some additions and corrections stipulated in articles 15 to 22 of the Charter. The only Kingdom institution that requires the participation of the Caribbean countries in a mandatory way is the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom; both the Supreme Court and the Council of State of the Kingdom only include Caribbean members if one or more Caribbean countries ask for it, and the Caribbean countries are almost completely excluded from participating in the Kingdom's legislature. They can, however, participate in the drafting of a Kingdom act and their Ministers Plenipotentiary can oppose a Kingdom act otherwise supported by the Kingdom government in front of the Kingdom's parliament. Furthermore, according to article 15 of the Charter, the Ministers Plenipotentiary can request the Kingdom parliament to introduce a draft Kingdom act.[29]

Last, but not least, the Netherlands can, according to article 14 of the Charter, conduct Kingdom affairs on its own if conducting such affairs does not affect Aruba, Curaçao, or Sint Maarten. Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten do not have this right.[29]

A characteristic that points to a devolved unitary state is the ability of the Kingdom government, according to article 50 of the Charter, to render a legislative or administrative measure of one of the Caribbean countries void if it is inconsistent with the Charter, an international agreement, a Kingdom act, an Order-in-Council for the Kingdom, or if it regulates an otherwise Kingdom affair.[29]

The constitutional structure of the Kingdom is summarised by constitutional scholar C. Borman, in an often-cited definition, as follows:

a voluntary association of autonomous countries in a sovereign Kingdom that is placed above them, in which the institutions of the Kingdom largely coincide with the institutions of the largest country, in which on the level of the Kingdom only a few affairs are governed, and in which from the level of the Kingdom a limited influence can be exerted on the smaller countries.[34]

Constitutional scholar C. A. J. M. Kortmann speaks of an "association of countries that has characteristics of a federation, yet one of its own kind."[35] Belinfante and De Reede do speak about a "federal association" without any reservations.[36]


Despite being of a sui juris constitutional nature, some other states have similar properties. In particular, the Kingdom of Denmark consists of Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands, while the Realm of New Zealand consists of North Island, South Island, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, and the Ross Dependency. These comparisons are not exact; for instance, aside from the Queen of New Zealand, there is no constitutional structure shared between New Zealand, the Cook Islands, and Niue.

Other states also have multiple territories, but such territories are distinct. Some states, such as the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, as well as the United States and its insular areas, do not consider their external territories as integral parts of the state.

Other states, such as the Commonwealth of Australia, do treat their external territories as integral components, but have only one country/nationality level equivalent to the state.

Relationship with the European Union

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a founding member state of the European Union. Although originally both Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles were explicitly excluded from association with the European Economic Community by means of a special protocol attached to the Treaty of Rome,[37] the status of Suriname as an overseas country (OCT) of the Community was established by a Supplementary Act completing the instrument of ratification of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on 1 September 1962.[38] The Convention on the association of the Netherlands Antilles with the European Economic Community entered into force on 1 October 1964, signalling the attainment of OCT status by the Netherlands Antilles.

Currently, all Caribbean islands, including the BES islands that are part of the Netherlands proper, are OCTs. Since citizenship is a Kingdom affair, and is thus not distinguished for the four countries, citizens from all four countries are also citizens of the European Union.

Constitutional reform of the Netherlands Antilles

In 2004, a joint commission proposed major reforms for the Netherlands Antilles. On 11 October and 2 November 2006, agreements were signed between the Dutch government and the governments of each island that would put into effect the commission's findings by 15 December 2008.[39] The reform took effect on 10 October 2010. Under these reforms, the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved and Curaçao and Sint Maarten became constituent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, obtaining the same status as Aruba which seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986.

The BES islands (i.e., Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius) became direct parts of the Netherlands, which is itself the major constituent country of the Kingdom. As special municipalities, they were constituted as "public bodies" (Dutch: openbare lichamen) under the Constitution for the Kingdom of the Netherlands. These municipalities resemble ordinary Dutch municipalities in most ways (e.g., they will have mayors, aldermen, and municipal councils) and will have to introduce most laws of the Netherlands. As a transitional measure, only law applicable to the Netherlands that is considered to be necessary to function within the legal system of the Netherlands was introduced, and most laws of the Netherlands Antilles remained in force when the BES islands they joined the Netherlands on 10 October 2010. Since that date, Dutch legislation is projected to slowly replace Netherlands Antilles laws. Nevertheless, some derogations will persist: e.g., social security will not be on the same level as in the European part of the Netherlands, and it is uncertain whether the islands will introduce the euro.[40][41]

The special municipalities will be represented in the affairs of the Kingdom by the Netherlands, as they can vote for the Dutch parliament. The current Dutch voting law specifies that the Senate is to be chosen by the provinces; however, the BES islands currently are not part of any province, and it is as yet unsure how they will elect members in the Senate. The Dutch government has guaranteed that the people on the islands will be able to elect Senate members, and is considering options for this.[40][41]

The Netherlands has proposed to conducted a study on the BES islands acquiring the status of Outermost Regions (OMR), also called Ultra Peripheral Regions (UPR). The study would also look into how the islands would fare under UPR status.[40]

Distinction between the Netherlands and the Kingdom

Outside the Kingdom of the Netherlands, "Netherlands" is used as the English short-form name to describe the Kingdom of the Netherlands. At the United Nations, for example, the Kingdom is identified in the General Assembly by its English short-form name “Netherlands”, whereas the English long-form name “Kingdom of the Netherlands” may be used in place of the name "Netherlands" in formal UN documentation. International treaties, also, frequently shorten "Kingdom of the Netherlands" to “Netherlands”. The Dutch name that is commonly used is Nederland, which is a singular form, whereas both the official Dutch name Koninkrijk der Nederlanden and the English "(Kingdom of the) Netherlands" is a plural form. In Dutch practice, however, "Kingdom of the Netherlands" is shortened to "Kingdom" and not to "Netherlands", as the latter name could be confused with the Kingdom's principal constituent country rather than with the Kingdom in its Charter capacity.[note 10] The Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands also shortens "Kingdom of the Netherlands" to "Kingdom" rather than to "Netherlands".[24]

Apart from the fact that referring to the Kingdom of the Netherlands as the "Netherlands" can be confusing, the term "Kingdom" is also used to prevent any feelings of ill will that could be associated with the use of the term "Netherlands." The use of the term "Netherlands" for the Kingdom as a whole might imply that Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten are not equal to the Kingdom's country in Europe and that the three island countries have no say in affairs pertaining to the Kingdom but are instead subordinate to the European country. Though the influence of the islands in Kingdom affairs is limited, it certainly exists.

Talking about the negotiation tactics of then Minister for Kingdom Affairs Alexander Pechtold, ChristenUnie leader and then demissionair Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands André Rouvoet illustrated the sensitivity in this matter by remarking in the House of Representatives that "[...] the old reproof that constantly characterised the relationship between the Netherlands and the Antilles immediately surfaced again. The Netherlands identifies the Kingdom with the Netherlands and dictates. The Netherlands Antilles can like it or lump it."[42] In addition, the Werkgroep Bestuurlijke en Financiële Verhoudingen Nederlandse Antillen—the commission that explored the current constitutional reform of the Kingdom—recommended that the "identification of the Netherlands with the Kingdom needs to be eliminated".[43] The Council of State of the Kingdom joins the commission in this by remarking that the Kingdom of the Netherlands has no telephone number, no budget and that the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom usually meets very briefly with a summary agenda.[44] To counter this habit, the Council of State has suggested that with the pending constitutional reform in the Kingdom, a Secretariat for the Kingdom will be instituted that prepares the agenda for the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom and guards the enforcement of decisions of the Council.


Map of the Dutch Caribbean islands, all part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten are separate constituent countries within the Kingdom, whereas Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba are part of the constituent country of the Netherlands.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands covers 42,519 km2 (16,417 sq mi). The Kingdom of the Netherlands has land borders with Belgium, Germany (both in the Netherlands), and France (on Saint Martin).

About one quarter of the Netherlands lies below sea level, as much land has been reclaimed from the sea. Dikes were erected to protect the land from flooding. Previously, the highest point of the Netherlands was the Vaalserberg in Limburg at only 322.7 m (1,059 ft), but with the constitutional reform of 10 October 2010 this changed as Saba became part of the Netherlands as a special municipality, and its Mount Scenery (887 m; 2,910 ft) took the place of the Vaalserberg.

The Caribbean parts of the Kingdom consist of two zones with different geographic origins. The Windward Islands (Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten) are all of volcanic origin and hilly, leaving little ground suitable for agriculture. The Leeward Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) have a mixed volcanic and coral origin.

The Caribbean islands have a tropical climate, with warm weather all year round. The Windward Islands are subject to hurricanes in the summer months. The European part of the Netherlands has a moderate maritime climate, with cool summers and mild winters.

Timeline of constituent countries

Time Countries Changes
1954 - 1975 Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands signed
1975 - 1986 Suriname gained its independence and became the  Republic of Suriname
1986 - 2010 Aruba split from the Netherlands Antilles to become its own constituent country
2010–Present The Netherlands Antilles is dissolved. The Caribbean Netherlands become special municipalities of the Netherlands, while Curaçao and Sint Maarten become constituent countries.

See also


  1. The official motto is in French. The literal translation into English is "I will maintain"; a better translation, however, is "I will hold firm" or "I will uphold" (namely, the integrity and independence of the territory).
  2. The Hague is the seat of the government of the Netherlands; Oranjestad is the capital of Aruba; Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao; and Philipsburg is the capital of Sint Maarten.
  3. Dutch is an official language in all four constituent countries. Papiamento is an official language in Aruba[1] and Curaçao[2] and has a formal status on Bonaire.[3] English is an official language in Sint Maarten[4] and Curaçao[2] and has a formal status on Saba and Sint Eustatius.[3] Spanish, though not among the official languages, is widely spoken on the Caribbean islands. In Friesland, the West Frisian language has a formal status.[5] Dutch Low Saxon and Limburgish are officially recognised as regional languages in the Netherlands.
  4. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands is referred to as "Our Prime Minister, in his capacity as chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom" (Dutch: Onze Minister-President, in zijn hoedanigheid van voorzitter van de raad van ministers van het Koninkrijk) when he acts as a Minister of the Kingdom. An example of this can be found in article 2(3a) of the Act on financial supervision for Curaçao and Sint Maarten. Other ministers of the Netherlands are referred to with the additional line "in his capacity as Minister of the Kingdom" (Dutch: in zijn hoedanigheid van Minister van het Koninkrijk) when they act as Kingdom Ministers, as for example with "Our Minister of Justice in his capacity as Minister of the Kingdom" (Dutch: Onze Minister van Justitie in zijn hoedanigheid van minister van het Koninkrijk), except for the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence, since they always act in a Kingdom capacity. For more information on this, see Borman 2005 and Borman 2010.
  5. Also .eu, shared with other EU member states.
  6. .an is being phased out.
  7. Not to be confused with the constituent country the Netherlands, which is only a part of the Kingdom. In some contexts "the Netherlands" refers to the constituent country, in more formal contexts it may refer to the Kingdom.
  8. The population statistics for the Netherlands proper and the Caribbean Netherlands are for 1 January 2012. However, the statistics for Aruba are for 31 December 2011, for Curaçao for 1 January 2011, and for Sint Maarten for 1 January 2010.
  9. The population statistics of the Central Bureau of Statistics for the Netherlands do not include the Caribbean Netherlands (Source 1, 2). The number given here results from adding the population statistics of the Netherlands with those of the Caribbean Netherlands.
  10. Examples of this practice can be found in all government documents and in nearly all press reports on Kingdom affairs, as well as in institutions that are related to the Kingdom of the Netherlands: Raad van Ministers van het Koninkrijk ("Council of Ministers of the Kingdom"), Ministerie van Binnenlanse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties ("Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Affairs"), the Koninkrijksspelen ("Kingdom Games", the Dutch equivalent of the Commonwealth Games), etc.


  1. Migge, Bettina; Léglise, Isabelle; Bartens, Angela (2010). Creoles in Education: An Appraisal of Current Programs and Projects. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 268. ISBN 978-90-272-5258-6.
  2. 1 2 "LANDSVERORDENING van de 28ste maart 2007 houdende vaststelling van de officiële talen (Landsverordening officiële talen)" (in Dutch). Government of the Netherlands. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  3. 1 2 "Invoeringswet openbare lichamen Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba" (in Dutch). Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  4. According to Art. 1 para 2. Constitution of Sint Maarten: "The official languages are Dutch and English"
  5. "Wet gebruik Friese taal in het rechtsverkeer" (in Dutch). Retrieved 25 October 2010.
  6. "Curaçao's New Government". Curaçao Chronicle. 7 June 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
  7. "New Marcel Gumbs Cabinet takes office". Archived from the original on 2014-12-20. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  8. Koninkrijk in isolation: [ˈkoːnɪŋkrɛik].
  9. The Charter of the Kingdom was fully explained in an "EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM to the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands", transmitted to the U.N. Secretary-General in compliance with the wishes expressed in General Assembly resolutions 222 (III) and 747 (VIII). New York, 30 March 1955 (* Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, 41, Suriname en de Nederlandse Antillen in de Verenigde Naties III, Staatsdrukkerij-en uitgeversbedrijf/ ’s Gravenhage, 1956)
  10. Edward, J.E.; Acton, D.A.; Ward, A.W.; Prothero, G.W.; Benians, E.A. (1907). The Cambridge Modern History. Vol. X: The Restoration. MacMillan. pp. 522–524.
  11. 1 2 Peter Meel, Tussen autonomie en onafhankelijkheid. Nederlands-Surinaamse betrekkingen 1954–1961 (Between Autonomy and Independence. Dutch-Surinamese Relations 1954–1961; Leiden: KITLV 1999).
  12. Gert Oostindie, De parels en de kroon. Het koningshuis en de koloniën (The Pearls and the Crown. The Royal House and the Colonies; Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2006).
  13. Gert Oostindie and Inge Klinkers, Knellende Koninkrijksbanden. Het Nederlandse dekolonisatiebeleid in de Caraïben, 1940–2000, II, 1954–1975 (Stringent Kingdom Ties. The Dutch De-colonisation Policy in the Caribbean; Amsterdam: University Press 2001).
  14. "Koning en Koningin bij viering 200 jaar Koninkrijk in Maastricht". Dutch Royal House. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015.
  15. De monarchie in Nederland, C.A. Tamse; Amsterdam / Brussel: Elsevier 1980 pp 43 - 44
  16. Central Bureau of Statistics (Netherlands)
  17. 1 2 3 Central Bureau of Statistics (Caribbean Netherlands)
  18. Central Bureau of Statistics (Aruba)
  19. Central Bureau of Statistics (Curaçao)
  20. Department of Statistics (Sint Maarten)
  21. "Monetary, Safety Law BES islands approved islands". The Daily Herald. 19 May 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-08-10. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
  22. "31.954, Wet openbare lichamen Bonaire, Sint Eustatius en Saba" (in Dutch). Eerste kamer der Staten-Generaal. Retrieved 15 October 2010. De openbare lichamen vallen rechtstreeks onder het Rijk omdat zij geen deel uitmaken van een provincie. (The public bodies (...), because they are not part of a Province)
  23. "The Bonaire Insider - InfoBonaire".
  24. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  25. 1 2 "Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles: Political relations within the Kingdom of the Netherlands". Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties. Archived from the original on 17 February 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2007.
  26. – Instellingsbesluit raad voor Koninkrijksrelaties
  27. Nationaal Archief – , page 12
  28. RNW – Onderraad voor Koninkrijksrelaties
  29. 1 2 3 4 5 6 H.G. Hoogers (2008) "De landen en het Koninkrijk", in Schurende rechtsordes: over juridische implicates van de UPG-status voor de eilandgebieden van de Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba, Groningen: Faculteit rechtsgeleerdheid van de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, pp. 119–124. This study was mandated by the Dutch State Secretary for Kingdom Relations and was used for government policy.
  30. – Dennis Richardson voorgedragen voor Raad van State Archived 11 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  31. In Dutch: Cassatieregeling voor de Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba, text available here
  33. "De in het statuut neergelegde staatsvorm heeft een uniek karakter en is moeilijk in een bepaalde categorie onder te brengen [...] Veelal wordt dan ook geconcludeerd dat het Koninkrijk niet van een duidelijke classificate kan worden voorzien. Gesproken wordt van een quasi-, dan wel pseudo-federatie of van een constructie sui generis", in: C. Borman (2005) Het Statuut voor het Koninkrijk, Deventer: Kluwer, pp. 23–24.
  34. "Een poging om de structuur van het Koninkrijk samen te vatten leidt tot de volgende omschrijving: een vrijwillig samengaan van autonome landen in een boven die landen geplaatst soeverein Koninkrijk, waarbij de organen van het Koninkrijk grotendeels samenvallen met die van het grootste land, op het niveau van het Koninkrijk slechts enkele taken worden verricht en vanwege het Koninkrijk een beperkte invloed kan worden uitgeoefend op het autonome bestuur in de kleinere landen", in: C. Borman (2005) Het Statuut voor het Koninkrijk, Deventer: Kluwer, p. 24.
  35. "associatie van landen die trekken heeft van een federatie (Bondsstaat), maar wel een eigensoortige", in: C. A. J. M. Kortmann (2005) Constitutioneel recht, Deventer, p. 107.
  36. A.D. Belinfante, J.L. De Reede (2002) Beginselen van het Nederlandse Staatsrecht, Deventer, p. 315.

    The High Contracting Parties,

    Anxious, at the time of signature of the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community, to define the scope of the provisions of Article 227 of this Treaty in respect of the Kingdom of the Netherlands,
    Have agreed upon the following provisions, which shall be annexed to this Treaty:
    The Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, by reason of the constitutional structure of the Kingdom resulting from the Statute of 29 December 1954, shall, by way of derogation from Article 227, be entitled to ratify the Treaty on behalf of the Kingdom in Europe and Netherlands New Guinea only.
    Done at Rome this twenty-fifth day of March in the year one thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven.", in: – Treaty establishing the EEC - Protocol on the application of the Treaty establishing the EEC to the non-European parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (1957)
  38. "The provisions of Part Four of the Treaty were applied to Surinam, by virtue of a Supplementary Act of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to complete its instrument of ratification, from 1 September 1962 to 16 July 1976.", in: – Treaty establishing the European Community (consolidated version) – Text of the Treaty
  39. Staff reporter (13 February 2007). "Agreement on division of Netherlands Antilles". Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2007.
  40. 1 2 3 The Daily Herald (12 October 2006). "St. Eustatius, Saba, Bonaire and The Hague Reach Historic Agreement". Retrieved 21 October 2006.
  41. 1 2 Radio Netherlands (12 October 2006). "Caribbean islands become Dutch municipalities". Retrieved 21 October 2006.
  42. André Rouvoet (12 October 2005). "Bijdrage debat Begroting Koninkrijksrelaties 2006" (in Dutch). Retrieved 21 October 2007. Hoewel Minister De Grave er wat ons betreft meer vaart achter had mogen zetten, had hij onmiskenbaar de goede richting te pakken én, dat is in Koninkrijkszaken cruciaal, de goede toon. Zijn opvolger, Minister Pechtold, bleek die broodnodige prudentie te ontberen met als dieptepunt zijn brief van 24 augustus waarin hij staatkundige veranderingen afhankelijk maakte van financiële verbeteringen. Het oude verwijt dat steeds de relatie tussen Nederland en de Antillen heeft gekenmerkt, speelde onmiddellijk weer op. Nederland vereenzelvigt het Koninkrijk met Nederland en dicteert. De Nederlandse Antillen moeten slikken of stikken. Gevolg: ergernis in de West, verstoorde verhoudingen en verlies van momentum; geen frisse wind, maar meer een storm in de Caribische porseleinkast. Het zal allemaal wel te maken hebben met de behoefte van deze minister om te zeggen wat hij denkt en heilige huisjes niet te sparen, maar echt behulpzaam voor de verhoudingen in het Koninkrijk is het niet.
  43. Werkgroep Bestuurlijke en Financiële Verhoudingen Nederlandse Antillen (8 October 2004). "Nu kan het... nu moet het! Advies Werkgroep Bestuurlijke en Financiële Verhoudingen Nederlandse Antillen" (PDF) (in Dutch). pp. 37–38. Retrieved 21 October 2007. Aanbevelingen Koninkrijk “Nieuwe Stijl”: [...] 7. De vereenzelviging van Nederland met het Koninkrijk wordt doorbroken.
  44. Raad van State van het Koninkrijk (18 September 2006). "Voorlichting overeenkomstig artikel 18, tweede lid, van de Wet op de Raad van State inzake de hervorming van de staatkundige verhoudingen van de Antilliaanse eilanden binnen het Koninkrijk" (PDF) (in Dutch). pp. 34–35. Retrieved 21 October 2007. Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden heeft geen adres of telefoonnummer en al evenmin een eigen budget. Als het Koninkrijk wordt gebeld, krijgt men Nederland aan de lijn. De relaties binnen het Koninkrijk zijn vooral een dynamisch onderhandelingsproces. Een democratisch gelegitimeerd centrum ontbreekt. Het duidelijkst geldt dit voor de rijksministerraad, die gewoonlijk slechts zeer kortstondig beraadslaagt, met een zeer summiere agenda en met weinig discussie over de koers van het Koninkrijk als geheel. Voor de voorbereiding is de raad vrijwel geheel afhankelijk van (voorbereidend) overleg tussen vertegenwoordigers van de drie landsregeringen.
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