Select Committee on European Union Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Dutch Parliament

  We provide you with the following information about the position taken by the Dutch Parliament. During its plenary debate with the Government on 10 October 2000, the Dutch Parliament adopted a resolution which indicated that it was not in favour of the establishment of a Second Chamber containing representatives of the Member States. The background to the debate was as follows.

  Each year the Dutch Government issues a report on the third Tuesday in September concerning the state of the European Union. This provides a survey of the financial and policy implications of European decision-making for the Netherlands and lists the policy plans for the coming year and their financial consequences. In its report entitled "State of the European Union: European agenda from a Dutch perspective", the Dutch Government aims to render account for the positions it proposes to take in the European Union and thus to contribute to the parliamentary and public debate on Europe and the Dutch position. The report on the State of the European Union 2000-2001 was published on the third Tuesday in September 2000. It provided information about the European agenda for the coming year and set out the Dutch position on numerous subjects.

  In section 1.4.5 (on the European Parliament) of the report the Dutch Government states as follows:

  "Ideas exist in the European Parliament and the national parliaments about reforms that could be introduced in the longer term in this connection. One of the ideas concerns a Parliament that would in due course comprise two chambers. One chamber would consist of directly elected representatives and the other (the Senate) would consist of representatives of the Member States. The role of a possible Second Chamber of this kind is also dealt with under the heading `constitutional arrangements'. The disadvantage of this option is that the decision-making and the existing structure would become more complicated. This is certainly the case when one considers that the Council too, with representatives of the governments of the Member States, must retain a role."

  The Dutch Government continues on this point in section 1.4.8 (on constitutional arrangements): "The Netherlands considers that a good division of responsibilities between the Union and the Member States is of great importance. It should not be forgotten that much on this subject has already been regulated in the Treaty and especially in the `Protocol on application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality'. It is important that the division of powers should be handled correctly. The principle of subsidiarity remains an important guideline in this connection. The more detailed definition of powers must not prevent a change in the division of powers in future. A Second Chamber consisting of representatives of the Member States as mentioned above could serve to balance the institutional forces by providing a counterweight to unduly centralistic tendencies. It could also help to guard against the overloading of the Union, in order to ensure that it remains on the right track even after enlargement. However, full scope should continue to exist for co-ordination and co-operation between the Member States. This applies even in respect of measures that are partly in areas that come within the national competences. Although the Member States retain their powers in full and determine how they will execute the policy, the basic principles, the objectives and the benchmarks are determined at European level. In short, it is a European approach implemented at national level."

  As a result of the "State of the European Union" Report, a plenary debate was held between MPs and the Government in the House of Representatives of the Dutch Parliament on 10 October 2000, in the presence of the delegation leaders of the Dutch political parties represented in the European Parliament.

  The positions of the parliamentary parties can be summarised as follows:

  PvdA: Parliamentary Labour Party (45 seats): In favour of a parliamentary representation (Second Chamber) from the Member States in order to help determine issues of subsidiarity and forms of intergovernmental co-operation. A consequence of its choice of this variant of a bicameral system (ie not the system in which the Council of Ministers plays the role of Second Chamber) is that the initiative for deciding on the later form of European government would rest more with the Member States than with the Commission. The Parliamentary Labour Party proposes that the options for a possible approach should be debated at a round table meeting by the chairpersons and spokespersons of the parliamentary parties in the House of Representatives together with the Dutch delegation leaders in the European Parliament.

  VVD: Parliamentary People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (38 seats): Opposed to a Second Chamber that has scrutiny and legislative functions in addition to the European Parliament and the Council.

  CDA: Parliamentary Christian Democratic Alliance Party (29 seats): In favour of a bicameral system in Europe, but the Member States should remain the foundation of the Union. A Second Chamber could help to counter undue centralism. It would allow more effective control of the council and could help to combat the overloading of the Union According to this vision, the Second Chamber would rank after the European Parliament.

  D66: Parliamentary Democrats '66 Party (14 seats): Categorically opposed to a European Second Chamber consisting of national representatives who would monitor application of the principle of subsidiarity. As long as the power in Brussels is vested mainly in the hands of the Council of Ministers national interests are adequately protected.

  GroenLinks: Parliamentary GreenLeft Party (11 seats): Not in principle in favour of a Second Chamber. Wishes instead to have a fundamental debate on the question of whether intergovernmental Europe is developing in the right direction. Takes the view that the government ministers of the Member States should fulfil their role within intergovernmental Europe. Since much can still be done to improve this, it should be done first. Efforts should also be made to strengthen the relationship between the intergovernmental European Council and the European Parliament. It is necessary to prevent a situation in which the European Parliament serves as a "letterbox" for the agenda of the European Council.

  SP: Parliamentary Socialist Party (5 seats): Opposed to a European Second Chamber. It is, however, in favour of the national parliaments having a right of veto over the application of European decisions to their Member State.

  Christen-Unie: Parliamentary Christian Union Party (5 seats): Opposed to a European Second Chamber. Would prefer instead the introduction of a given structure in the European Parliament: where decisions are to be taken on vital matters, for example the transfer of sovereignty and the issue of subsidiarity, the participants in debates in the European Parliament would be national delegations. Types of decisions on which national delegations would meet and decide should be selected. The major advantage of this would be that the national delegations in the European Parliament would be more visible than if an extra institution were simply added to the existing European Parliament.

  SGP: Parliamentary Calvinist Political Party (3 seats): Opposed to the idea of a European Second Chamber. After all, what would remain of the notion of Member States as "fundamental elements" of Europe in a situation where the Government is in favour of a European constitution, where European political parties and European electoral lists are encouraged and where the Government itself says that it is aiming for a European political union? The SGP party sees absolutely no merit in the idea of a European super state with its own constitution.

  During the debate the following motion was proposed by MPs De Graaf, Patijn, Van Middelkoop, Rosenmo­ller, Van den Berg and Van Bommel:


    The House,

    having heard the deliberations,

    having regard to the fact that the Government mentions as a possible reform, in its report on the "State of the European Union", the establishment of a Second Chamber consisting of representatives of the Member States;

    considers that in this respect parliamentary scrutiny should be strengthened first and foremost through the European Parliament and the national Parliaments;

    expresses its opinion that no action need to be taken by the Government to further the institution of a Second Chamber of this kind,

    and proceeds to the orders of the day.

  The motion of De Graaf et al, (Parliamentary Document 27407, no 5) was passed by a majority of 2 (76 votes for and 74 votes against).

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