Tweede Kamer


The committee on European Affairs
(commissie voor Europese Zaken)

Legal base: Articles 68 and 90-95 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Composition: 24 Members.

The European Affairs Committee was established in 1986. The Committee’s task is to play an “initiating, signalling and coordinating” role for the purpose of parliamentary control of decision making in the European institutions, and particularly the Council. The Committee for European Affairs has its own responsibility in controlling government with respect to broader, more general and horizontal developments in Europe. Furthermore, it has its own competence in institutional matters.

Every sectoral standing committee is responsible for the European affairs in its own policy area. This means that European policy forms an integral part of the business of every standing committee, and, consequently, of any of its members.


The House of Representatives and the European Union

The House of Representatives is involved in various ways with the decision-making in the European Union and has a number of tools and working methods at its disposition to carry out its duties. A key element is the definite role the House of Representatives plays in the preparation of the negotiations between European ministers.

A key element is the role the House plays in the preparation of the negotiations between European ministers. Any Dutch minister who is going to attend a meeting of the European Union, a “Council” in EU-terms, has to explain the position of the Netherlands in the negotiations in a letter to the House of Representatives, prior to the Council of Ministers. This is the so-called annotated agenda, which is discussed with the standing committee on the policy area in question. During the debate the responsible standing committee can adjust the Dutch position. If necessary, the House can also put forward a motion in a plenary sitting, to express its opinion on the Dutch position to be taken in the negotiations. Only after the debate with the standing committee does the minister travel to Brussels for the Council of Ministers, meeting with his or her 26 European colleagues.

Furthermore every year, the standing committees of the House decide on the basis of the European Commission’s Legislative and Work Programme which proposals they will consider with priority, on which proposals they will enter a parliamentary reservation and which proposals will be subject to the subsidiarity test. The meaning of these two specific instruments is explained hereafter. The standing committee on European Affairs discusses the list of priorities with the government and monitors the planning. As soon as a proposal has been published in the course of the year it is up to the committee in charge of the subject to deal with the proposal.

Parliamentary reserve

If the House of Representatives considers a European legislative proposal to be of such importance that the government should inform the House immediately after its publication, it can enter a so-called parliamentary reservation. The House then asks the government not to take any irreversible decisions in the Brussels negotiations until after a debate on the issue has taken place between the minister and the standing committee concerned.

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Eerste Kamer

The committee on European Affairs

(Commissie voor Europese Zaken)

Composition: 24 members

In 2009 the Senate adopted a new EU procedure. As a result, the standing committee for European Affairs lost its ‘gatekeeper’ role. The committee now plays a coordinating role in scrutinising cross-committee proposals and can be requested by the Senate’s committees to scrutinise a specific proposal. The coordinating activities include pre-paring for the Parliamentary Debate on European Affairs, maintaining interparliamentary contacts, assessing the institutional dossiers and providing the impetus for debate on European affairs in the Senate.

Subsidiarity check – how does this work?

Each Senate committee itself selects the proposals it wishes to subject to parliamentary scrutiny. This can be done in two ways:
1) through the annual Legislative and Work Programme of the European Commission;
2) through the weekly overview – drawn up by the staff of the Senate – of newly published European proposals.

After publication of a European Commission proposal selected by a Senate committee, it is placed on the committee’s agenda for discussion of the procedure by which it will be dealt with. 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. If a committee decides to carry out a subsidiarity check, it should convene a meeting for submission of comments. Any subsidiarity and/or proportionality objections of the committee are set out in a letter, which must be approved in a plenary session before being sent to the European institutions. In the course of this procedure, cooperation is also sought with the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) in order to ascertain whether the letter can be sent on behalf of the States General as a whole. A period of 8 weeks is available for this purpose.

A Senate committee may also decide to enter into (written) consultations with the Dutch government about a European proposal. It may recommend a particular course of action by the government in the Council negotiations or otherwise exchange views on the government’s opinion on the proposed European measures, as evidenced by the record of the government’s assessment of a new Commission proposal.


For more information please click here (website in Dutch)