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Sunday, Oct 10, AMSTERDAM, CMC – Two Dutch Caribbean islands became independent countries early Sunday morning after the Netherlands Antilles was dissolved, five years after legal proceedings began.With the end of the Netherlands Antilles, the islands of Curacao (population 142 000) and St. Maarten (population 37 000) will continue as independent countries but remain in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.Three other islands that were also part of the Netherlands Antilles – Bonaire (population 13 000), St Eustatius (2 900 inhabitants) and Saba (population 1 700) – will continue as special municipalities within the Netherlands.They will be subject to Dutch law but can take a different standpoint on controversial issues such as abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage.In Willemstad, the capital of Curacao, celebrations broke out after the flag of the Netherlands Antilles was taken down and replaced with the flag of Curacao.A similar ceremony took place in St Maarten and was followed by a fireworks display.With the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao and St Maarten will have more independence in terms of law making and government.The Netherlands, however, will still play a role in their new government, as it remains partly responsible for their finances, defense and foreign policy. Aruba has had this status since 1986.On the issue of currency, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba will switch to US dollars to replace the guilder. Curacao and St. Maarten are expected to introduce a new currency that is linked to the US dollar.At least for the next few years, the islands will remain as overseas countries and territories (OCT) within the European Union (EU) through their connection with the Kingdom of the Netherlands.After that, the EU may decide to give them another legal status within the union.