Curaçao’s Bilateral Air Services Agreements in a constitutional context
The status of agreements negotiated by the Curaçao government
Over 70 Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) regulate air transport relations between Curacao and other countries. Most often, these BASAs are negotiated by the Government of Curacao. However, they are always ratified by the Kingdom of the Netherlands as the contracting party to the Agreement. This constitutional context to concluding BASAs is further elaborated in this article.
Countries of the Netherlands
The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of four (4) countries:
- The Netherlands: the European part (in Europe) and the Caribbean part of the Netherlands (the Islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba);
- Curaçao; and
- Sint Maarten.
On the international level the Kingdom of the Netherlands is a subject of international law meaning that only the Kingdom of the Netherlands can conclude treaties and not the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten. That is why all agreements concluded have in their titles the reference to “the Kingdom of the Netherlands”. However, such agreements may be applied to the Kingdom as a whole or to the countries individually, or in any combination.
While only the Kingdom of the Netherlands can conclude treaties, the countries (The Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten) themselves have the authority to negotiate treaties.
In bilateral agreements concluded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands the title will usually specify for which country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands the agreement will apply to (“the Kingdom of the Netherlands in respect of [Aruba/Curaçao/Sint Maarten])” and there will also be a territorial applicability clause in the agreement (“As regards the Kingdom of the Netherlands, this Agreements shall apply only to [the Netherlands (European part and/or Caribbean part)/Aruba/Curaçao/Sint Maarten]”.
Therefore it is possible that a State may have five (5) separate agreements with the Kingdom of the Netherlands regarding the same matter.
The unique structure of the Kingdom of the Netherlands cannot be compared with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and their overseas territories or with the Republic of France and their overseas territories. Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten are not Dutch overseas dependencies, but full, autonomous partners within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, alongside the Netherlands, with each enjoying a high degree of internal autonomy.
Relationship with the European Union (EU)
The Netherlands is a European Union member state, but Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and the Caribbean part of the Netherlands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba) are not. Instead they have the status of Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT). As a result, the islands enjoy a number of advantages, for example where the export of goods to the EU is concerned. In addition, the islands receive funding from the European Development Fund (EDF). Since all citizens of the Kingdom of the Netherlands are Dutch nationals and thus EU citizens, citizens from Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, and the Caribbean part of the Netherlands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba) may also vote in European Parliament elections.
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