Dutch government 'set to officially apologise for slavery'

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By Euronews  with AFP
The National Slavery Monument in the Oosterpark in Amsterdam, on the international day for the abolition of slavery, on December 2, 2022.
The National Slavery Monument in the Oosterpark in Amsterdam, on the international day for the abolition of slavery, on December 2, 2022.   -   Copyright  REMKO DE WAAL/AFP

The Dutch government is poised to issue an official apology for colonial-era slavery, according to media reports in the Netherlands. 

The apology is planned for 19 December and will be issued by several ministers at different locations in countries that were once colonies of the Netherlands. 

This information is unconfirmed by the Dutch government.

The Dutch Empire began in the 16th century and parts of it remained until the period of decolonisation after World War Two. It traded some 550,000 - 600,000 people from Africa as slaves, according to Leiden University. 

Organisations from former Dutch colonies, such as Suriname in South America and Caribbean countries, criticised the "arbitrary" date of 19 December and complained that they were not consulted.

They want the official apology to be issued on 1 July 2023, coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the end of slavery in former Dutch colonies.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Thursday after meeting with representatives of several organisations that there would be a "significant moment" on the subject on 19 December. 

He did not specify whether there would be an official apology.

Johan Roozer, chairman of the Surinamese National Commemoration Committee, told reporters that Rutte had chosen the date due to "the political situation" in the Netherlands, citing pressure from the extreme right who are opposed to the apology. 

Rutte said his government wanted the event scheduled for that date to ensure it was a "success", Dutch news agency ANP reported, with the Dutch PM calling the leak to the media "extremely regrettable".

In recent years, the Netherlands has begun to face the legacy of its colonial past and its role in slavery.  

Amsterdam officially apologised for its role in the slave trade last year.

Slavery helped fund the Dutch's 'Golden Age', a period of prosperity and maritime trade in the 16th and 17th centuries.