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Dutch PM to Make Dec. 19 "Slavery" Speech

FILE: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte delivers a statement in parliament in The Hague, Netherlands, April 2, 2021.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte will make a speech on slavery on December 19, the government said Wednesday, without confirming reports that he would give a formal apology for the Netherlands' role.

The Dutch government said Rutte would give the speech at the National Archives in The Hague "in response" to an advisory group's report in 2021, which recommended that the government should apologize.

PM Rutte insisted that he would push on with a "meaningful moment" on December 19, but did not confirm whether it would include an apology for the role the Netherlands played in slavery.

Groups in a number of colonies have vocally opposed any formal apology at this stage, saying the Netherlands had not consulted with them in advance about its plans.

Representatives from the tiny South American former colony of Suriname and from six Caribbean countries that still remain part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands would attend Rutte's speech, the government said.

Ministers would also travel to Suriname, Bonaire, Sint Maarten, Aruba, Curacao, Saba, St. Eustatius to "discuss the cabinet response and its significance on location with those present" after the Dutch PM speaks, it said.

During a meeting with Rutte last week, groups from ex-colonies called for any apology to come on July 1, 2023, the 150th anniversary of the end of slavery in Dutch-held lands.

The Netherlands has been slowly coming to grips with the legacy of its colonial history and its role in the slave trade in South America, Asia and South Africa.

The city of Amsterdam has formally apologized for its role in the slave trade, while the capital's famed Rijksmuseum last year held the first exhibition confronting the issue.