The five Caribbean islands comprising the Netherlands Antilles—Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba—underwent a constitutional status change over the weekend, formally gaining autonomy from the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Curaçao and Sint Maarten are now autonomous countries within the Kingdom, as opposed to their former status as island territories controlled by the Kingdom. They join Aruba and the Netherlands as the four countries that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Aruba formally seceded in 1986; residents of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten all hold Dutch citizenship but elect their own parliaments.
Similarly, the BES islands—Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and Saba—have become autonomous special municipalities of the Kingdom. The Netherlands still assumes military and diplomacy duties for these territories.
The federation’s autonomy from the Kingdom was a result of several referenda over the past few years across the five islands, with all but St. Eustatius voting to dissolve the Antilles. None voted for total independence. Curaçao and Sint Maarten complained that they were giving a disproportionate sum of money to the Kingdom on behalf of the BES islands, and thus desired financial independence. However, because of Curaçao’s debt to the Netherlands of roughly €2 billion, it has entered a long-term debt-relief arrangement with the Dutch government.