|The Caribbean Netherlands refers to a group of three special municipalities of the Netherlands (officially public bodies) that are located in the Caribbean Sea: the islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, which are also known as the BES. |
Although they are part of the Netherlands, these special municipalities will remain overseas territoriesof the European Union at least until 2015. Bonaire (including the islet of Klein Bonaire) is located east of Aruba and Curaçao, close to the coast of Venezuela. Sint Eustatius and Saba are located south of Sint Maarten and northwest of Saint Kitts and Nevis.
The three islands gained their current status following the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles on 10 October 2010, while at the same time the islands of Curaçao and Sint Maarten became autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Distinctly, the Caribbean Netherlands does not include these autonomous countries (nor Aruba) as it refers only to those Caribbean islands that are administrative divisions of the country of the Netherlands, as opposed to the complete Dutch Caribbean which includes all the Caribbean islands within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The BES islands have a collective population of 21,000 and a total area of 328 square kilometres (127 sq mi).