The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba
Geographically, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba are composed of two groups of islands: the Leeward Islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao) and the Dutch Windward Islands (St. Maarten, which is half Dutch and half French, St. Eustatius and Saba). The Netherlands Antilles are actually two groups of islands, as the distance between the Leeward Islands and the Wind-ward Islands is over 900 km. The Leeward Islands Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao are only 80 km off the coast of Venezuela, situated in the very southwest of the curve of the Caribbean islands. The Dutch Windward islands are almost at the other side of this island curve, located 300 km east of Puerto Rico, and southeast of the Virgin Islands.
Politically, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which currently consists of three countries: the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. The Netherlands Antilles is composed of five islands: Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten. Aruba used to be a part of the Netherlands Antilles but it has a status aparte since 1986. The Netherlands Antilles will, however, soon cease to exist as a political entity. The population of Curaçao represents almost three-quarters of the population of the Netherlands Antilles and, as such, it has a lot of political weight in the Netherlands Antilles Parliament. Combined with the location of the capital, Willemstad, in Curaçao, and the overrepresentation of its politicians and civil servants, some people and politicians on the smaller and more distant Dutch Leeward islands have felt, politically and economically, somewhat neglected and disadvantaged. Constitutional reforms towards a new status for the Netherlands Antilles is currently under way and by 2010 or later, the status of the islands will have changed. Curaçao and St. Maarten will, just like Aruba before, become separate countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius will get a new status as “special municipalities” of the Netherlands as a country.