The Netherlands: king apologises for slavery

King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has formally apologised for his country's role in the slave trade 150 years after the abolition of slavery in the Dutch colonies. Members of the government did the same in Suriname and six Caribbean islands. The king's apology comes after that of Prime Minister Mark Rutte in December 2022.

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De Volkskrant (NL) /

The monarch leads the way

De Volkskrant praises the grand gesture:

“There is still too much of a misplaced sense of superiority in this country, which blocks the view of the dark sides of the past and present: the systematic discrimination and disadvantage of large sections of the population. The fact that the king is now moving to put an end to this and did not spare himself either sends an important signal and shows that the monarchy can play an important role even in these times. As a unifier and as a role model in the search for a new national identity that is fair to all inhabitants of the Netherlands.”

De Standaard (BE) /

One step further than Belgium

De Standaard comments that the Dutch king has gone further than the Belgian monarch, who instead of offering an apology merely expressed his 'regret'for the injustices committed in the then Belgian colony of Congo:

“With these words, King Philippe acknowledged that there is a relationship between the historical oppression of the Congolese at that time and today's racism against Afro-Belgians. According to the court, the wording 'deepest regret' prevailed against 'apology' because the former 'indicates more a personal sentiment on the part of King Philippe'. Not insignificant is the fact that there are fewer legal implications with expressions of regret than with official apologies, which can open the floodgates for reparation payments.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

Ignore demands for compensation

The issue should now be put to rest, De Telegraaf concludes:

“With this 'sorry tour', we will hopefully put this painful past behind us. ... Some activists are calling for tens of billions in reparations. This exorbitant amount would then be imposed on present and future generations. Taxpayers who are not in the least to blame for the slavery of the past would then have to pay these reparations. The government would do well to ignore such excessive demands and close this chapter.”