This page offers information about the procedure on the European policy and legislative process in the Dutch Senate.
For general information about the election, procedures and history of the Senate, please check the website of the Dutch Senate.
When the process of reflection on Europe was completed in the Senate in June 2009, it was decided to adopt a new procedure on the European policy and legislative process. This procedure took effect at the start of the 2009-2010 parliamentary year. The procedure for the Senate's committees is elaborated in the text below.
As the 'gatekeeper' role of the standing committee for European Affairs (EA) was abolished in 2009, each committee now selects itself the European proposals it wishes to scrutinise. The procedure provides two selection options for this purpose.
1)Annual Work Programme of the European Commission
Each year the European Commission publishes its Work Programme. This document contains a general introduction as well as the policy priorities for the coming year, REFIT initiatives (revision of existing policy), a list of priority pending proposals, a list of withdrawals and a list of envisaged repeals. For each new proposal the programme lists the proposed title, the type of proposal or act, the expected period of publication and, for legislative proposals, the legal basis. Two examples from the 2022 programme are:
A partnership with the Gulf
Joint Communication on a partnership with the Gulf (non-legislative, Q2 2022)
Recognition of parenthood between Member States
Recognition of parenthood between Member States (legislative, incl. impact assessment, Article 81(3) TFEU, Q3 2022)
As soon as the programme becomes available, it is put on the agenda in all committees of the Senate. Each committee is asked to indicate which proposals that come within its remit should be scrutinised by the Senate. The committee should therefore designate the priority dossiers. As soon as all committees have notified their 'own' priority dossiers, these files are entered in a single list - the annual European Work Programme of the Senate. This list will be placed on the agenda of the Committee of Senior Members of the Senate (the chairs of the parliamentary groups) for forwarding for adoption by the Senate in plenary session. It is up to the committees to determine whether they wish to scrutinise - and consequently place on the list - a directive, regulation, decision, Green Paper, White Paper or any other European document. To emphasise its own responsibility, the Senate does not await the government's assessment of the Commission's Work Programme.
2)Overview of proposals presented by the European Commission
The European Commission directly presents its new proposals to the national parliaments at the same time as it presents them to the governments, the Council and the European Parliament. The document formally presented is the Dutch version of the proposals. As the work of translating the proposals at European level can take a few weeks, the staff of the Senate produce a list of recently published European proposals, often partly in English. This 'List of new European proposals' is:
-presented weekly by e-mail to all members;
-attached to the provisional agenda of the Senate;
-included in the European newsletter - EUpdate - with a link to the weekly overviews.
The European proposals on this weekly list will be split according to policy field.
Below is an example of the data available on a proposal:
FIN en BDO
Directoraat-generaal Economische en Financiële Zaken
Voorstel voor een BESLUIT VAN HET EUROPEES PARLEMENT EN DE RAAD tot toekenning van buitengewone macrofinanciële bijstand aan Oekraïne
All members have the opportunity to indicate on the basis of this 'List of new European proposals' in the committee concerned that they wish to have a proposal put on the committee's agenda.
A European proposal that is being dealt with on the basis of the List of New European proposals by a committee is not included in the list of priority files - the Senate's European Work Programme (see above).
The procedure for dealing with European proposals in the Senate is organised as far as possible in keeping with the procedure for dealing with draft national legislation (bills).
The first time that a European proposal appears on a committee's agenda the 'procedure' is discussed, just as in the case of a national bill. If a European proposal has been classified by the committee as priority (and thus included in the Senate's European Work Programme) it is automatically put on the committee's agenda for discussion of the procedure. If a proposal is selected by a member from the List of New European Proposals, it is thus put on the agenda for 'procedure' on request.
If the committee decides that it does not wish to consider a European proposal, it 'takes note' of the proposal, thereby completing the procedure.
Consideration of proposals
If the committee decides that it does wish to consider a European proposal, it adopts the same procedure in practice as in the case of national bills. The committee decides to undertake a 'preliminary scrutiny' and proposes a date for a submissions meeting for the purpose of written consultations with the government. After the receipt of the government's reply, the 'further procedure' is put down on the agenda. If necessary, a date for the 'further submission of written questions' is chosen or a date for oral consultations or possibly even a date for a plenary debate in the Senate. The committee may also terminate its consideration of a proposal at any time by 'taking note' of it.
When European proposals are scrutinised, there is one additional possibility: the subsidiarity check. Under the Treaty of Lisbon, the subsidiarity check should be completed within 8 weeks. This 8-week period applies in cases where a committee wishes to send a response to the European Commission. If a committee decides to complete its consideration of a proposal in discussions with the Dutch government and rely on the government's own efforts, including any objections regarding the subsidiarity of the proposal, it is not bound by the 8-week period. When putting a European proposal on the agenda, a committee should therefore decide as quickly as possible whether 1) there may be subsidiarity objections and, if so, 2) whether it wishes to submit an opinion to the European Commission. The committee may also decide to adopt a twin-track approach, i.e. submit subsidiarity objections to the European Commission and (substantive) questions/objections to the Dutch government.
If a committee decides to carry out a subsidiarity check, it should convene a meeting for submission of comments. Once again, it should be noted that the submission of a specific opinion on subsidiarity can run in parallel with the comments submitted to the government. Any subsidiarity objections of the committee are also passed to the committee of the House of Representatives responsible for policy on the issue in question, with a request to consider whether it shares the view of the Senate and whether the two chambers of the States General should possibly each send a letter with the same or similar motivation to the European Commission. Such a letter has to be adopted in a plenary session. Vice versa, the Senate will be invited to consider subsidiarity concerns brought up by the House.
At the request of the Committee of Senior Members of the Senate a separate memorandum has been drawn up on the 'parliamentary scrutiny reserve' as provided for in the Act approving the Treaty of Lisbon. Each of the two Houses of the States General may decide, within two months after receiving a European legislative proposal, that it considers the proposal to be of such political importance that it wishes to be informed in a special way about its consideration. The government will make a parliamentary reservation about the proposal, within the framework of the proposal's legislative procedure.
Once a committee decides to launch the procedure for scrutinising a European proposal an electronic file (Edossier) is prepared on Europapoort.nl. This file includes the most relevant documents for the consideration of the proposal by the committee. A committee may always submit a request for further information or a request to inform the parliaments of the other EU Member States. The staff of the committee will also inform the members of any specific developments if this is considered necessary for the consideration of the European proposal.
The Senate's European procedure means that the individual committees are responsible for the scrutiny of proposals in their policy field. The standing committee on European Affairs (EA) plays a coordinating role in scrutinising cross-committee proposals. In addition, the committee regularly evaluates the overall procedure.
Other activities of the EA Committee include the preparations for the yearly Debate on European Affairs (Algemene Europese Beschouwingen), the interparliamentary contacts, the institutional dossiers and the cooperation with the House of Representatives in European Affairs.
The European proposals are for the most part scrutinised by reference to the same criteria as draft national legislation. Substantive criteria applied by the Senate include legitimacy (issue of competence), practicability (particularly in the case of European directives which are 'merely' binding as to the result to be achieved, and proposals based on the 'open coordination' method) and enforceability. Attention can also be paid to constitutional aspects, privacy protection, legal coherence and the consequences for Dutch legislation. The principles of competence (does the EU have the legal authority to act?) subsidiarity (should a proposal be introduced at the European level?) and proportionality (is the correct legislative instrument being used?) provide some guidance in this respect.
Every month the staff of the Senate publishes a newsletter known as the 'EUpdate'. This provides information about the progress made in considering the various European proposals in the Senate. The 'EUpdate' is distributed by e-mail. This will give third parties the opportunity to respond to specific proposals.
Each Senate committee has its own page on Europapoort.nl where it is possible to find out what European proposals are currently under consideration by the committee concerned. Senators and other visitors of the website can reach the electronic dossier made for each European proposal and monitor the progress of the proposal in the Dutch Chambers, the European institutions and in other national parliaments in the EU (see also IPEX.eu).