On Thursday 3 December, members of parliament of the European Parliament met with members of the Dutch Senate and House of Representatives in the unique setting of the Hall of Knights (Ridderzaal). The parliaments were represented by their presidents, speaker, and chairmen. This so-called Conference of Presidents takes place twice yearly, preceding the coming Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This meeting took place against the backdrop of the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first six months of 2016. Between January and July 2016, the States General will be organising six inter-parliamentary conferences, two of which will address the themes of energy and human trafficking.
Welcome by the Presidents and Speaker
At the start of the meeting, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House and the President of the European Parliament addressed the gathering. Ms. Broekers-Knol, President of the Senate, stressed the joint responsibility of the European Parliament and national parliaments to bridge the gap between citizens and the European Union. Ms. Van Miltenburg, Speaker of the House of Representatives, stated that the subject will be of special interest during the Dutch parliamentary dimension: working together to increase parliamentary engagement in EU-decision-making. Mr. Schulz, President of the European Parliament supported this message, saying: “The European Parliament is looking forward to effective and courageous presidencies. We need a bridge builder and a presidency that dares something.”
Parliaments, according to mr. Schulz, should seek solutions to the deep rooted sense of distrust of citizens for European, national and local institutions. He mentioned there are currently 42 national parliaments in the EU, with 10.000 national parliamentarians. With such numbers, it is often difficult to reach agreement. Nevertheless, mr. Schulz was hopeful that European member states will come to realize joint solutions can often be of national interest.
Migration and refugees
The first theme the Dutch parliamentarians discussed with their European colleagues was that of migration and refugees. Member of the Senate Ms. Tineke Strik opened the discussion. She stated that the current migration and refugee crisis will dominate political agenda’s for the foreseeable future. Ms. Strik argued that the EU should do anything to relieve the pressure from Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan and work on a system of redistribution. Ms Strik: ´We need to be creative and fully committed. If we can’t handle this together, the EU really has a credibility problem.”
Members of the European Parliament stated there is a lot of attention for the current problems. According to the MEP’s, up to a certain point, there is consensus within the EP about the way to deal with this. National parliaments have trouble to reach consensus in their approach, as well as in fulfilling the engagements that are reached during top meetings.
The second theme was the European budget/the multiannual financial framework. This theme was introduced by Member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Alexander Pechtold. Mr. Pechtold stated that the Dutch parliament is concerned about the current system of European budgets. Mr. Pechtold called the system unpredictable as well as complex, and argued for a system that is efficient, flexible, transparent and democratic. Projects should be selected on the basis of added value. According to mr. Pechtold, 2016 will be an ideal year for taking steps towards achieving this.
The representatives from the European Parliament stated the topic to be of special interest. There are proposals for reform on the table. However, there is a lack of consensus between national governments to execute these proposals, and to come up with a vision for the future on the system of funding.
De delegation of the European Parliament at the Conference of Presidents consisted of:
- Martin Schulz (President)
- Esther de Lange (Vice-Chair of the group of the European People’s Party)
- Gianni Pittella (Chair of the group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats)
- Syed Kamall (Chair of the group European Conservatives and Reformists)
- Guy Verhofstadt (Chair of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe)
- Patrick le Hyaric (Vice-Chair of the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left)
- Philippe Lamberts (Co-Chair of the group of the Greens/Europe Free Alliance)
- David Borrelli (Co-Chair of the group of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy)
De delegation of the House of Representatives consisted of:
- Anouchka van Miltenburg (President)
- Halbe Zijlstra (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy)
- Diederik Samson (Labour Party)
- Alexander Pechtold (Democrats 66)
- Sybrand van Haersma Buma (Cristian Democratic Appeal)
- Jesse Klaver (Green Left)
- Kees van der Staaij (Reformed Political Party)
- Henk Krol (50PLUS)
- Tunahan Kuzu (GrKö)
- Johan Houwers (Houwers)
- Norbert Klein (Klein)
De delegation of the Senate consisted of:
- Ankie Broekers-Knol (President)
- Mart van de Ven (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy)
- Elco Brinkman (Cristian Democratic Appeal)
- Thom de Graaf (Democrats 66)
- Tiny Kox (Socialist Party)
- Marleen Barth (Labour Party)
- Tineke Strik (Green Left)
- Peter Schalk (Reformed Political Party)
- Martin van Rooijen (50PLUS)