Island delegations compare, share on Schiermonnikoog

Members of the Island Councils of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba visited Schiermon­nikoog, the smallest in­habited island of the Fri­sian Islands, last week. The conclusion was that the islands have a lot in com­mon, but that there are also many differences.

The island delegations, who were in the Nether­lands for a working visit that included the annual congress of the Associa­tion of Dutch Municipali­ties VNG, were highly sur­prised when they learned upon taking the ferry to Schiermonnikoog that resi­dents of the Frisian Island only pay six euros for the ferry to and from the main­land.

Delegations from Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba visited Schiermonnikoog last week. (Romy Dam photo)

Bonaire Commissioner James Kroon, who was part of the Bonaire delegation, asked jokingly if that tar­iff also counted for fellow island people of the Ca­ribbean Netherlands. The Saba and Statia delegation explained that a ticket on the ferry to and from St. Maarten cost about US $100.

Kroon pointed out that Bonaire didn’t have a ferry at all, but has been clamouring for one. An air­line ticket to neighbouring Aruba can run as high as $1,100, he remarked. Con­nectivity and affordable air fares are a prime con­cern of all three Caribbean Netherlands islands.

The delegations were wel­comed by Commissioner of the King for Friesland Arno Brok. His idea to in­vite the Caribbean Neth­erlands islands came about while meeting Saba Island Governor Jonathan John­son and Statia Govern­ment Commissioner Alida Francis. “We found out that we shared much more than we thought. An island is something else than the mainland. It is not a va­cation colony, but a vital place where people live and work,” said Brok.

“We share the island feeling, but we also have similar problems,” Schier­monnikoog Mayor Ineke van Gent, a former Mem­ber of the Dutch Second Chamber of Parliament’s Permanent Committee for Kingdom Relations, told de Volkskrant newspaper. She awaited the island del­egations upon the arrival of the ferry and also received them in the Municipal Council Hall.

Van Gent mentioned housing, energy and drink­ing water facilities and keeping young people on the island as major chal­lenges. She said that even though being small scale had its advantages, it also presented many challenges. Van Gent shared the good news that the Municipal Council recently approved an investment of nine mil­lion euros to build a new school. “Where do you get the money with a budget of 8.5 million euros?” asked Statia Island Council Mem­ber Rechelline Leerdam. Finances were a recur­ring theme during the visit to Schiermonnikoog, the meetings and the island tour. The delegations asked whether the roads were be­ing paid for by the Dutch government and whether Schiermonnikoog could also make use of the Mu­nicipal Fund.

Bonaire Commissioner Jolinda Craane explained that road infrastructure, while very important, had been neglected on her is­land and that this infra­structure was not only vital for residents, but also when large cruise ships visited with many guests.

Craane spoke of a very useful visit to Schiermon­nikoog. “We are 8,000 ki­lometres apart, but I see many similarities. We too have shortage of housing and we too are worried about connectivity,” she told regional broadcasting organisation Omrop Fryslan.

The Daily Herald.


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