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
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:
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).