Constitution & governance
Until 10 October 2010 the Netherlands Antilles, comprising St. Maarten and the islands of Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius formed together with the Netherlands, the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Netherlands Antilles was an autonomous country in the Kingdom. After a complex process of dismantling, the Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist as from 10 October 2010. As a result of the dismantling process, St. Maarten and Curaçao became independent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands and obtained a status similar to the status the island of Aruba already has since 1986. The islands Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius, often referred to as the “BES islands”, transformed into public entities within the country of The Netherlands.
Apart from certain affairs that are considered to be affairs of the Kingdom (such as defense, foreign affairs and citizenship), St. Maarten has full autonomy. The system of government of St. Maarten is a parliamentary democracy based on the Dutch model and free elections are held every four years. St. Maarten is a so called associate member of the European Community. The purpose of such association is to promote the economic and social development of St. Maarten and to establish close economic relations between St. Maarten and the European Community as a whole.