The Netherlands

Consultation process on the WolBES and FinBES results in concrete agreements; Islands don’t get everything they wanted

The photo gives a good impression of the amount of attendees to the deliberations. Photo: RCN

The photo gives a good impression of the amount of attendees to the deliberations. Photo: RCN

DE BILT/DEN HAAG- After a three-day meeting in De Bilt, the consultation process with the Public Entities Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba is nearly complete. While the islands succeed on some points, on others, requests or wishes are not, or only partially, granted. 

The three islands will have a permanent representation in The Hague and will be involved earlier in policy and legislation-making. 

The principle of ‘comply or explain’ remains the basis for policy, and different levels of financial supervision will be implemented for the islands, allowing for tailored approaches per island. 

To better involve the islands in the drafting of new laws, a working group consisting of representatives from Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, Saba, and the Ministry of BZK will be established.

“I am pleased that we have been able to hold such constructive discussions in good spirits. I am convinced that the valuable input from the islands will improve the legislative proposals. It was a successful meeting where we reached agreement on the content of both laws. We will jointly work out our agreements in the coming period,” says State Secretary Alexandra van Huffelen (BZK). 


One of the other points discussed is the remuneration of island councilors, commissioners, and governors, which will be increased to a level comparable to that of local officials in European Netherlands. The adjustment takes into account the workload of the islands and local factors, including the cost of living. 

Contrary to the islands’ wishes, the position of island councilor will not become a full-time position. It will remain a part-time role, but one that is slightly better rewarded.

More councilors and commissioners

The number of island councillors will gradually increase from the next elections (2027). Initially, for Bonaire from 9 to 11, for Sint Eustatius from 5 to 7, and for Saba from 5 to 7. Interim evaluations will determine if increasing the number of island councilors is necessary for the subsequent elections (2031 and 2035). The island councils will receive support to carry out their duties. For this purpose, the Ministry of BZK will annually allocate a total of €350,000 for Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba. It has been agreed to maintain a range of 3 to 5 commissioners for Bonaire, 3 to 4 for Sint Eustatius, and 3 for Saba. 

Other agreements

In the proposed amendments to the Law on Public Bodies BES (WolBES) and the Financial Decision-making BES (FinBES), financial supervision on Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba will be adjusted to increase local autonomy. 

The level of supervision will vary depending on the financial situation and management, accommodating the desire for differentiation. 

Furthermore, there is a commitment to providing structural funding for the islands’ structural tasks, as recommended by research agency IdeeVersa and the Council for Public Administration. 

The amendments aim to improve the governance and financial relations between the islands and European Netherlands, and after a consultation process, the laws will proceed to the next stage, including advice from the Council of State and consideration in the Second Chamber.

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