Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten could become fully independent states almost immediately if they wanted, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (left picture, Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst) has said in an official visit to the Caribbean islands. Speaking to the islands' representatives, Rutte told them: "If you call me tomorrow that you want out, then we'll arrange it immediately", Curaçao Chronicle writes.
DutchNews.nl says that such a direct message was aimed at preventing the islands' governments from discussing the financial arrangements between the Caribbean territories and the metropolitan centre. The news website recalls that Curaçao has been going through financial troubles.
These three islands are currently semi-sovereign states. They do not belong to the country of the Netherlands, but they do belong to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which is made up of four countries: the Netherlands themselves and the three islands.
Curaçao and Sint Maarten severed almost all their political ties with the Netherlands in 2010. Still, the Dutch government continues to be responsible for defence, foreign affairs and some financial matters. Aruba had already reached a similar status in 1986. Last year, the main pro-independence party of Curaçao got the most votes in the island's legislative election and promised to turn the country into a completely independent state by 2022.
Curaçao is the most populated of the three semi-sovereign Caribbean countries, with 142,000 inhabitants. Aruba holds a population of 102,000, while Sint Maarten (which lies in the southern half of the island of Saint Martin, the north belonging to France) has 37,000 residents.