Paragraph

The European Union (EU) is the largest partnership in Europe. It was established after the Second World War, when people realized that conflicts should be prevented through cooperation and that cross-border issues could best be addressed jointly.

The Netherlands is an EU-member state and decides on these issues in consultation with the other 28 member states. In the course of time, the EU has gained authority in an increasing number of areas, which means that the member states have ceded their authority in these areas to the EU. However, this is only the case when cooperation is more effective than individual member states dealing with an issue.

Typically European issues

  • Cross-border crime
    Crime does not respect borders: criminal organisations are increasingly active in more than one country at the same time. The introduction of the European arrest warrant has made it easier to extradite suspects of terrorist activities from one EU member state to another. Moreover, the EU-countries have decided that telecom and Internet providers must keep certain data for the purpose of a possible criminal investigation.

  • Protection of the environment
    Environmental pollution does not stop at national borders. Trying to achieve results in international cooperation with several other countries will strengthen a country's position. Meanwhile, many people have become aware of the need for swift action in this field. Two concrete examples are air and water quality.

    Together we have decided that the air must become cleaner in Europe. The Dutch government has drawn up a plan to solve air quality related problems. This plan is intended to tackle health problems and to prevent a standstill in spatial development at the same time. The European Commission is of the opinion that the Dutch Government has drawn up a good plan and has granted the Netherlands more time to meet the European air quality standards.

    Without this delay, the Netherlands would not have been able to comply with the European air quality standards in time. Nitrates and phosphates cause harm to the environment. European legislation is needed to reduce the amount of manure, since manure contains nitrates and phosphates.

    The Dutch law has already been modified, requiring Dutch farmers to produce less manure, and the manure to be processed more effectively. Eventually, this could have an impact on the total number of livestock in the Netherlands.

  • The euro
    Sixteen European countries use the single European currency known as the euro. The euro was introduced in 2002. In the course of time almost every member state will join the euro. The value of having a strong single currency has become clear to many people during the financial crisis.

  • Open telecom market
    For a long time the telecom market in the EU member states was dominated by a few large companies. In 1998 the European rules with regard to the telephone service market were altered. Since then the number of telecom service providers has been increasing in all the EU member states, including the Netherlands.

    The telecom service providers offer competitive tariffs for national and international calls, consumers are free to choose their provider and they are paying less and less for their telephone calls. As a result, Dutch KPN telecom lost its monopoly position in the Netherlands.

  • Mutual recognition of professional qualifications
    Europe has made commitments in the field of transparency of professional qualifications. The aim is that diplomas awarded in one country will be recognised in other European countries in order to enhance workers' mobility within the EU.


 

  1. Is it necessary to deal with a matter at European level

    In order to prevent Brussels from getting involved in too many issues, the national parliaments of the EU member states have made an arrangement to assess European proposals against the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. The key question is whether or not it is necessary to deal with an issue at European level.

    Subsidiarity

    Sometimes the question is raised whether the European Union is involved in matters that could better be dealt with at national level. The principle of subsidiarity means that national parliaments decide whether a proposal should be put forward at European level or should be left to the member states. If the national parliaments are of the opinion that a proposal should not be put forward at European level, they can address the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council about it.

    If one third of the national parliaments of the EU member states should lodge objections, the European Commission is shown the so-called "yellow card", which means that it has to reconsider its proposal. If more than half of the parliaments of the European Union should lodge objections, they can show the "orange card" and urge the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to stop carrying out the proposal. All this is laid down in the Lisbon Treaty.

    Principle of proportionality

    The principle of proportionality means that national parliaments assess whether a proposal is further-reaching than necessary. If this is the case, national parliaments can lodge objections following the procedures mentioned above.

    Every year the national parliaments make a selection of proposals to be assessed against the principle of proportionality. The Dutch Parliament will also make a selection of proposals from the European Commission's annual legislative and working programme to be checked against these principles. Furthermore, the House decides which proposals deserve special attention, in the form of the so-called parliamentary reservation procedure (see hereafter).

  2. Parliamentary reservation

    Sometimes an issue affects the Netherlands to the extent that parliament asks the government not to agree to a proposal before a debate with the House of Representatives has taken place on the issue.

    In 2009 the House of Representatives adopted a new instrument to exercise influence on the European decision-making process: the so-called parliamentary reservation procedure. When expressing a parliamentary reservation the House informs the government that it considers an issue to be of great importance and that it will keep a close watch on the matter.

    The government then has to provide extra and extensive information on the progress of the issue. Moreover, the government cannot take any decisions in Brussels before a debate with the House has taken place.

  3. Objections to an European Public Prosecutor's Office

    The House of Representatives objects to the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO).

    Although the House also wants to take rigorous action against fraud with EU money, it considers criminal prosecution to be a competence of Member States.

    In 2014, mr. Van der Steur (then MP for the VVD) has been appointed rapporteur on this dossier by the standing committee on Security and Justice. After he assumed duties as the minister of Security and Justice in March 2015, Mr. Jeroen Recourt has been appointed rapporteur. He will try to win fellow parliamentarians from other EU Member States to the Dutch position.

    Position paper

    In 2014, the standing committee on Security and Justice drew op its position paper (pdf). The position paper sums up the objections the House of Representatives has to the establishment of a European Public Prosecutor's Office, especially in the field of subsidiarity (higher authorities should refrain from making rules if lower authorities are capable of doing so) and proportionality.

  4. State of affairs in the European Union

    Once every year, shortly after the state opening of Parliament on Prince's Day, the House of Representatives holds a debate about the State of affairs in the European Union, a paper in which the Cabinet sets out its policy on European issues.

    During this debate the Cabinet, the House of Representatives as well as the Dutch members of the European Parliament discuss the European agenda for the coming year.

  5. The impact of European legislation on the Netherlands

    Member states play an important role in the implementation of European legislation. European regulations apply directly, whereas directives have to be incorporated into national law.

    The European Commission proposes new laws

    The European Commission drafts proposals and initiates new legislation. The Commission also presents proposals for the budget of the European Union. Al these proposals must be submitted for approval to the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.

    Implementation of European legislation

    European rules prevail over national legislation. There are two forms of European rules. When a European regulation comes into force, it applies directly to all the member states and so forms part of Dutch law as well. European directives have to be incorporated into national law within a time specified: as a rule within two years after the decision has been made.

    National parliaments involved in implementation of European legislation

    National parliaments can exercise influence on the implementation of European regulations or the incorporation of directives in national law. The Dutch parliament decides which is the best way to implement European legislation in the Netherlands, but the framework has been set in advance by the EU.

  6. The impact of the EU on the Netherlands

    More than half of the Dutch legislation is EU-initiated, including laws in the field of tackling crime, the environment, education, the free market and transport. These laws have an impact on all the Dutch citizens.

    The European Union (EU) is the largest partnership in Europe. It was established after the Second World War, when people realized that conflicts should be prevented through cooperation and that cross-border issues could best be addressed jointly. The Netherlands is an EU-member state and decides on these issues in consultation with the other 28 member states. In the course of time, the EU has gained authority in an increasing number of areas, which means that the member states have ceded their authority in these areas to the EU. However, this is only the case when cooperation is more effective than individual member states dealing with an issue.

    Typically European issues

    Cross-border crime

    Crime does not respect borders: criminal organisations are increasingly active in more than one country at the same time. The introduction of the European arrest warrant has made it easier to extradite suspects of terrorist activities from one EU member state to another. Moreover, the EU-countries have decided that telecom and Internet providers must keep certain data for the purpose of a possible criminal investigation.

    Protection of the environment

    Environmental pollution does not stop at national borders. Trying to achieve results in international cooperation with several other countries will strengthen a country's position. Meanwhile, many people have become aware of the need for swift action in this field. Two concrete examples are air and water quality.

    Together we have decided that the air must become cleaner in Europe. The Dutch government has drawn up a plan to solve air quality related problems. This plan is intended to tackle health problems and to prevent a standstill in spatial development at the same time. The European Commission is of the opinion that the Dutch Government has drawn up a good plan and has granted the Netherlands more time to meet the European air quality standards.

    Without this delay, the Netherlands would not have been able to comply with the European air quality standards in time. Nitrates and phosphates cause harm to the environment. European legislation is needed to reduce the amount of manure, since manure contains nitrates and phosphates.

    The Dutch law has already been modified, requiring Dutch farmers to produce less manure, and the manure to be processed more effectively. Eventually, this could have an impact on the total number of livestock in the Netherlands.

    The euro

    Sixteen European countries use the single European currency known as the euro. The euro was introduced in 2002. In the course of time almost every member state will join the euro. The value of having a strong single currency has become clear to many people during the financial crisis.

    Open telecom market

    For a long time the telecom market in the EU member states was dominated by a few large companies. In 1998 the European rules with regard to the telephone service market were altered. Since then the number of telecom service providers has been increasing in all the EU member states, including the Netherlands.

    The telecom service providers offer competitive tariffs for national and international calls, consumers are free to choose their provider and they are paying less and less for their telephone calls. As a result, Dutch KPN telecom lost its monopoly position in the Netherlands.

    Mutual recognition of professional qualifications
    Europe has made commitments in the field of transparency of professional qualifications. The aim is that diplomas awarded in one country will be recognised in other European countries in order to enhance workers' mobility within the EU.

  7. The Netherlands' position in Brussels

    It is very important that Dutch MPs know what is going on in Europe. In order to enable MPs to exercise influence on the European policy-making, there is frequent consultation between the House of Representatives and the government. The House always discusses the position to be taken in Brussels in advance with the minister in charge. That is how the democratic control by the Dutch parliament of the decision-making process in Brussels is assured.

    In the so-called Council of Ministers the governments of the 27 member states of the European Union negotiate proposals from the European Commission for European legislation. These negotiations take place in Brussels. The government of the Netherlands sends one or more ministers or state secretaries to negotiate new legislation with their colleagues from the other EU-member states during the specialist Council of Ministers. This involves agricultural policy or public health, for instance.

    Assessment of the consequences for the Netherlands

    Proposals from the European Commission for new legislation are discussed in the working group of the House of Representatives on the assessment of new proposals from the Commission (BNC in Dutch). The working group decides which ministry is primarily responsible. Subsequently, the officials from the ministry in question draft a position paper, the so-called BNC-file, containing a brief summary of the substantive and financial consequences of the proposal for the Netherlands. This summary is submitted to both the Senate and the House of Representatives and provides a key subject for debate.

    Debate with the House of Representatives

    Prior to every specialist Council of Ministers, for example in the field of agriculture or Health Care, the Dutch minister in charge notifies the House of Representatives of the position he or she intends to assume, in a letter called the "annotated agenda". On the basis of this letter the House of Representatives discusses the position of the Netherlands with the minister in question, prior to the meeting of the Council of Ministers. As a rule, the debate is held with the members of the standing committee that deals with the issue at stake. This is how the democratic control by the Dutch parliament of the decision-making process in Brussels is assured.