The Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union begins on 1 January, but the parliamentary project-based organisation is already working overtime. The invitations to the first conference – the Meeting of the Chairpersons of COSAC on 7 and 8 February – have been sent to our colleagues in the other European parliaments. And we’ve already received a large delegation from the European Parliament in the Hall of Knights. On Thursday, 3 December, the chairpersons of all political groups and the President of the European Parliament met for a 90-minute meeting with the chairpersons of the Dutch parliamentary parties and the presidents of both Chambers to discuss topical themes, including migration and the European Union budget.
Lively debate in the finely-furnished Hall of Knights
The Hall of Knights was decked out specially for the occasion with superb items of furniture that were also used for the Nuclear Security Summit in March 2014. The chairpersons of the Dutch and European parliamentary parties sat opposite each other in an oval diagonally left of the throne. This seating arrangement encouraged lively discussion befitting the Dutch parliamentary debating culture. Thus, we provided the European Parliament with a taste of what’s in store at the six inter-parliamentary conferences soon to be organised by the Dutch Parliament: interactivity, directness and innovation.
Open debate with the European Commission also on the cards
On Thursday, 7 January, we will repeat this successful approach when the plenary European Commission arrives in The Hague. With President Juncker at the helm, the 28 European Commissioners will meet with the chairpersons of the Dutch parliamentary parties and the Presidents of both Chambers in the historical room at the Dutch Senate. This will once again offer us the opportunity to introduce the leaders of the European Union to our preferred mode of debate in the Netherlands: open, direct, at times cutting, but always committed and focused on the subjects that really matter.
Ready for a thousand parliamentarians
After having received the European Parliament and the European Commission, we’ll be ready to welcome around a thousand parliamentarians from the 28 EU member states over the coming six months. Numerous members of parliament, and even more civil servants, from both Chambers will do their utmost to demonstrate that national parliaments truly matter in the European Union. The Dutch Parliament an inter-parliamentary hub in Europe – it’s actually going to happen.
Arjen Westerhoff, Co-Project Manager for the Parliamentary Dimension