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Meeting of President and chairmen of European Parliament with States General

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.

Word of welcome by the President of the Senate
Word of welcome by the Speaker of the House of Representatives

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.

European budget
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)





Conference of Presidents to visit States General on 3 December 2015

On Thursday, 3 December 2015, the Dutch parliament will meet the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament, consisting of the President, Martin Schulz, and the presidents of the eight political groups. The meeting is taking place against the backdrop of the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the EU in the first six months of 2016. This involves an important role for the government and parliament alike; between January and July 2016, the States General will be organising six inter-parliamentary conferences.

A key element of the meeting will be a discussion between the leaders of the parliamentary groups of the Senate and House of Representatives and the Conference of Presidents. The topics under discussion will be ‘migration and refugees’ and ‘the European budget/the multiannual financial framework’.

The meeting will take place from 15.00 until 16.30 in the Hall of Knights. The President of the Senate, Ankie Broekers-Knol, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Anouchka van Miltenburg, and the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, will deliver a few words of welcome. Other members of parliament will then introduce the two themes, after which the discussion will take place. It will be preceded by a meeting between the Conference of Presidents and the Dutch government in the Hall of Knights.

Those present will be:

  • Mr. Martin Schulz, President
  • Ms. Esther de Lange, Vice-President, EPP
  • Mr. Gianni Pittella, President, S&D
  • Mr. Syed Kamall, President, ECR
  • Mr. Guy Verhofstadt, President, ALDE
  • Mr. Patrick le Hyaric, Vice-President, GUE/NGL
  • Mr. Philippe Lamberts, Vice-President, The Greens/EFA
  • Mr. Marcel de Graaff, Vice-President, ENF
  • Mr. David Borrelli, Vice-President, EFDD





Blog by Tuur Elzinga, chair of the Senate committee on European Affairs

From 1 January 2016, the Netherlands will be President of the EU for the first time since 2004. Or to be more precise: President of the Council of the European Union. The Councils of Ministers are presided over in rotation, and so are the various Interparliamentary Conferences. This means there is also a parliamentary dimension to the EU Presidency. Both Chambers of the Dutch Parliament will have a role to play in this.

So what can we expect? What is the actual scope of our country’s leading role? And what are our ambitions? Fair questions, requiring a qualifying answer. The President primarily has influence in setting conference agendas and in the proceedings, but not so much in terms of the content being discussed at conferences and even less when it comes to the direction of the debate. After all, debates are held between the representatives of all parliaments present and as such have their own dynamics.

And even the agenda itself will be determined in part by external factors. It would be difficult, for example, to avoid discussing the current refugee crisis. Or the impact of terrorist attacks on our national security and rule of law. During the previous Dutch tenure, the treaty for establishing a full-fledged European constitution was signed in Rome. Also during this presidency, however, the Dutch parliament ruled that the treaty would be subject to a referendum in the Netherlands. Which had an impact that made itself felt. And referendums are bound to have an impact again. Our own referendum on the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine will be followed with more than a passing interest. And a British referendum on the EU membership of the United Kingdom has all the potential of overshadowing every other debate.

When it comes to proceedings, we aim to increase the interaction in the various Interparliamentary Conferences. Shortening substantive introductions, leaving more room for discussions. Less one-way traffic, more exchange. Learning from each other and meeting other parliament members. So we know who to turn to later. With the ongoing process of European unification and more and more policy being determined in Brussels, the power of national parliaments will rely increasingly on the ability and willingness to collaborate with other national parliaments.

I am really looking forward to this collaboration, especially during the period of our Dutch presidency!

Tuur Elzinga
Chair of the Senate Committee on European Affairs, and member of the EU Presidency Steering Group

Tuur Elzinga

Blog by Malik Azmani, chair of the committee on European Affairs at the House of Representatives

It is almost upon us: in the first six months of 2016, it will be the Netherlands` turn to assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The informal council meetings of ministers from the 28 member states will be taking place in Amsterdam. However, the Dutch parliament also has a role to play – as host and as chair of a number of interparliamentary meetings, most of which will be held in the Hall of Knights (Ridderzaal).

The purpose of these interparliamentary meetings will be to strengthen cooperation between the individual national parliaments, and thereby exert greater influence on the decision-making process in Brussels. The ‘there is nothing I can do about it – it’s up to Brussels’ era is now well and truly over!

As a national parliamentarian, you have an influence on the decision-making process; directly, through the checks by your own government, and indirectly, through cooperation with fellow parliamentarians from other member states. By working in partnership with national parliaments, it is possible, for example, to show a so-called ‘yellow card’. This enables you to send a powerful signal to the European Commission, that it should reconsider a particular proposal. However, you do require the support of at least fourteen parliaments for this, and it must be presented within eight weeks. It therefore means that the need for close contacts, and the need to maintain them, is crucial.

The Netherlands recently called upon other parliaments to make clear to which European Commission proposals they attached priority. Using this overview, we are now able to see which proposals receive particular attention and which parliaments are acting on them. This makes it easier to establish cooperation-based relationships and thereby jointly steer proposals in the right direction.

Collaboration between national parliaments is also important because the information provided by one government differs to another. Some parliaments hardly receive any information at all. Other parliaments, by contrast, are given highly detailed information. Additionally, cooperating with the European Parliament offers opportunities for obtaining extra information and for exerting influence on the decision-making process, thereby enhancing the democratic controls by members of national parliaments.

My message is clear: working together is essential and will therefore be the main topic of discussion during the interparliamentary meetings during the forthcoming six months in The Hague: ‘working together to strengthen parliamentary influence on EU decision-making’.

Themes like defence and foreign security policy, human trafficking, the economy, energy, and the rule of law will be among those being examined. But all the major issues of the day will obviously feature as well. The meetings between parliamentarians and the presence of other foreign guests will put the Binnenhof firmly in the spotlight during the next six months. The Netherlands will take up the Presidency baton from Luxembourg during the final interparliamentary meeting – on development cooperation – in that country, on 10 and 11 December. On 7 and 8 February, we will kick off with the meeting of the chairpersons of the European Affairs committees in the Hall of Knights (Ridderzaal).

In short, Europe will be a dominant presence at the Binnenhof during the next six months.

Malik Azmani
Chair of the Standing Committee on European Affairs, and member of the EU Presidency Steering Group


Message from the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives

On 1 January 2016, it is the Netherlands` turn to assume the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Parliamentary dimension will then commence for the Dutch parliament. The States General will hold various conferences, where parliamentarians from across Europe will exchange ideas concerning important trans-border matters in a fresh, interactive manner.

Ms. Ankie Broekers-Knol, President of the Senate:
“We are extremely proud to be organising these events. It is an honour to invite parliamentarians from all over Europe to exchange experiences and best practices on this historic site. To our great pleasure, it coincides with the celebrations of our bicentenary.”

Ms. Anouchka van Miltenburg, Speaker of the House of Representatives:
“The goal of the Parliamentary dimension is to encourage parliamentarians to work together to increase parliamentary involvement in EU-decision making. All national parliaments in the EU have an important role to play in this, so there is much that we can learn from one another. During our Parliamentary dimension we hope to enhance this learning process.”

“In all of our conferences we will implement innovative ways of communication. We do this because we believe innovation can encourage lively debates. For example, we are the first to launch an app that allows parliamentarians to communicate with each other directly and to access all the necessary conference material. Up to date, complete and easy to use.”

Ms. Broekers-Knol:
“For one of our conferences we are even preparing a scenario-based discussion, that focusses on the role of parliaments in the deployment of EU military forces. We look forward to welcoming a large number of honourable guests and discussing matters of mutual interest. The events will be a great chance for parliamentarians to join forces and discuss pressing European matters.”

The Parliamentary dimension of the Netherlands EU Presidency

From January to June 2016 the Netherlands will hold the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The States-General will play a major role during this Presidency. As part of the Parliamentary dimension of the Presidency, The Senate and the House of Representatives will jointly organize a number of inter-parliamentary conferences. The aim of these conferences is to work together to ensure parliamentary engagement.

President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives sign ‘Trio Declaration’ in Rome