The Dutch Case

This chapter examines the validity of the expectations formulated in the previous section on the basis of a study of EU-related parliamentary reforms in the Dutch parliament from the mid-1980s until the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. In focusing on this example, no claim can be made that the same party behaviour will necessarily exist in other countries. The comparative analysis in the previous chapter is a more suitable basis for this kind of generalization. The goal of this chapter is to demonstrate that the mechanisms envisaged in an explanation of parliamentary reform based on constitutional preferences are plausible, operate over an extended period of time, and respond in expected ways to changes in European integration and party preferences.

The EU history of the Dutch parliament provides interesting challenges that the theoretical argument should be able to resolve. First, the parliament implemented a series of reforms over time (see Figure 2.5). It created a temporary EU committee and procedures for the involvement of sectoral standing committees in the monitoring of EU affairs in the context of the Single European Act in the mid-1980s. Parliamentarians then acquired rights to explanatory memoranda, through the so-called 'fiches' procedure, with the adoption of the Maastricht Treaty. In 2002, following the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty and the signature of the Nice Treaty, a permanent European Affairs committee was created and information procedures were reinforced. In 2009, with the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the parliament introduced a scrutiny reserve procedure. In between these key reform efforts, smaller adjustments of the treatment of EU affairs were regularly discussed. Support and opposition, justifications, and the negotiations of these reforms should reflect the nature and configuration of parties' constitutional preferences.

Second, in the area of justice and home affairs, the Dutch parliament created a sector-specific oversight arrangement after the Maastricht Treaty. The so-called 'approval rights' required that the government ensures parliamentary approval for a decision to support or oppose EU legislation in this area. Whereas most member state parliaments have one set of oversight instruments that they apply to all areas of EU affairs, these sector-specific rights are an opportunity to investigate whether and for what reasons parliamentarians might distinguish between EU competences. What makes the approval rights even more interesting is the fact that they were abolished nearly entirely in 2009 with the parliamentary ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. Only three clearly demarcated EU decision-making competences in justice and home affairs still require parliamentary approval since then. The introduction and the abolishment of the approval rights coincides with the first creation of formal EU competences without giving powers to the EP, and with the nearly complete 'supranationalization' of justice and home affairs including co-decision powers of the EP in the Lisbon Treaty. Examining the creation and abolishment of the approval rights should provide insights into the ways parties with different constitutional preferences think of national parliamentary rights in conjunction with the empowerment of the EP.

Third, the Dutch parliament is interesting because of the existence of longitudinal and cross-party variation in constitutional preferences. The major parties have long been highly supportive of European integration in general and of the empowerment of the EP. This is the case for the centre-left Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA) and for the centre-right Christen Democratisch Appel

(CDA), and for the liberal Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratic (VVD). Smaller parties have also held federal constitutional preferences, notably Democraten 66 (D66) and GroenLinks (GL). The Socialistiese Partij (SP) and the Staatkundig Gereformeerde Parij (SGP) have, however, been critical of integration and, in particular, moves towards majority voting and the empowerment of the EP. The Partij voor Vrijheid (PVV) on the right is a staunch defender of national sovereignty. On balance a pro-integrationist consensus has been the rule in the Dutch parliament with some exceptions.

Yet, as Hoetjes (2001: 338) noted already at the turn of the century, public and party opinion had begun to trend downward in the late 1990s. Sceptical views of the Dutch contributions to the EU budget and the country's influence on decision-making encouraged this development. De Wilde (2008: 6-7), for instance, shows that parliamentary debate over the EU's multiannual budgets were more than twice as intense in 2000 than in 1992, as measured by the number of claims parties made. Intensity increased markedly again during the negotiations of the 2007-2013 budget. In 2005, 62 per cent of voters rejected the ratification of the EU Constitutional Treaty. This created further pressure on centrist government and opposition parties to adopt more cautious positions regarding the development of the EU. The noteworthy electoral successes of Pim Fortuyn's populist right list in 2003 (gaining 5.3 per cent of the parliament's seats) and Geert Wilders' PVV in 2006 (6 per cent) are likely to have added to the pressure on the centrist parties. Figures A4.2 and A4.3 show the gradual downward trend in Dutch parliamentary and governmental EU support. Having been among the strongest advocates of integration, the Dutch parties were among the most critical in EU-wide comparison by 2010. However, as Chapter 3 highlighted it would be misleading to interpret the positions of Dutch parliamentary parties as Eurosceptical. They continue to support European integration and the decline over time has clearly been gradual. The more appropriate interpretation is that the Dutch parties have adopted more cautious views regarding the powers of the EU and its institutions. This development should also be observable in their stances towards EU-related national parliamentary rights.

Empirically, this chapter examines debates on EU-related reforms in the Dutch parliament. It also takes into account reports, motions, and legislative proposals put forward and voted on by parliamentarians. In order to find minutes of relevant plenary and committee debates, I searched the Dutch parliament's electronic archives from the mid-1980s to 2010.[1] Table 5.1 lists

Table 5.1 Documents used in the analysis

D

M

Y

Document

No.

9

12

1985

Procedure committee report

19336-1&2

11

12

1985

Procedure committee report section on legislative organization

19336-3

on EC matters

13

3

1986

Foreign minister's response on procedure committee report

19336-6

19336-3

12

7

1995

IGC Note 4 on Institutional Reform of the EU (See also

24251-1&2

debate on 25 January 1996, 24251-3)

11

12

1996

Government report on 'Parlement en Europese Unie'

25 181-1&2

17

12

1996

Parliamentary debate on Dutch presidency

TK39-3211

20

3

1997

Debate over report on EU decision-making (cf. 25181-1&2) Continuation of the debate on 9/9/1997 (25181-4)

25181-3&4

1998

Debates on ratification of Amsterdam Treaty (throughout

25922

1998):

25922-4&5

EAC debate and response

25922-9

Amendment of the ratification law Plenary Debate

TK19-1146

12

5

1998

EAC evaluation for the period 1994-1998 No. 1

26054-1

17

11

1998

EAC evaluation for the period 1994-1998 No. 2

26054-2

17

3

1999

Debate on dismissal of the European Commission

TK58-3617

25

5

1999

Government response to EAC evaluation (26054-1&2)

26054-3

19

9

2000

State of the Union report

27407-1

10

10

2000

Debate of State of the Union report 27407-1

TK10-644

8

6

2001

Future of the EU report

27407-9

3

10

2001

Nice Treaty: Government reaction to EAC debate (27818-4)

27818-5

17

10

2001

Debate on Future of the EU and State of the Union and

TK14-760

enlargement reports

12

11

2001

Nice Treaty: EAC debate (legislative debate)

27818-6

21

11

2001

Nice Treaty: Debate

Motion: Verhagen etal on promoting majority voting and co-decision (27818-10)

Vote on motions 22/11/2001 (TK27-1945)

TK26-1862

11

4

2002

Van Baalen Report 'Op Tijd is te Laat'

28632-1

25

4

2002

EAC evaluation for the period 1998-2002

28449-1

27

6

2002

Presidency proposal to create EAC

28452-1

Based on evaluation 28449-1 and plenary agreement

TK91 -5444

(4/7/2002)

3

6

2008

Lisbon Treaty ratification debate (see also dossier 31384

TK91-6451

R1850)

4

6

2008

Lisbon Treaty ratification debate, continuation (cf. dossier

TK92-6541

31384 R1850)

4

6

2008

Approval rights

31384-11

5

6

2008

31384 R1850-2008-06-05-lisbon-debateTK2007-2008,6619-

TK93-6619

votes on motions.pdf

5

6

2008

Scrutiny reserve amendment (Wiegman-Van Meppelen

31384-23

Schepping and Ten Broeke)

5

6

2008

Scrutiny reserve motion (Wiegman-Van Meppelen Schepping

31384-25

and Ten Broeke)

17

9

2009

European Affairs Commmittee report on the design of the

31384-27

scrutiny reserve procedure (Wiegman-Van Meppelen Schepping and Ten Broeke)

Note: The date is not the date of the document but of the event the document refers to. In some cases such as when a document summarizes a committee debate, the event and document date are not identical. In the case of plenary debates ('TK...') the numberafter the hyphen is the first page. Citations below may referto later pages. EAC: European Affairs committee.

the documents used in the following alongside their identification number.[2] I use the identification numbers in the following section to cite documents. The analysis will put more emphasis on the first decade of the twenty-first century than the 1980s and early 1990s due to their greater contemporary relevance.

  • [1] Source: The documents referred to in the table can be found via the online archives of theDutch parliament. Available at: (accessed 29 July2016). Documents from before 1995 are available at: (accessed 29 July 2016).
  • [2] The identification number can be used to find the documents electronically.
 
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