Working together to bring the EU closer to its citizens

Together, the government, the two houses of parliament and the European institutions have the power to bring the European Union (EU) closer to its citizens. This is one of the government’s conclusions in its response to the report ‘Towards European Cooperation that Has Public Support’ published in April by the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV).

The government praises the actions taken by the Senate and the House of Representatives to build trust in the EU. ‘Both houses have made an extra effort to establish relationships with other parliaments in the EU. This contributes to an effective and visible Dutch presence in the Union,’ the government wrote in its official response, which was sent to the House of Representatives on Friday.

The government goes on to say that there are no simple solutions for the lack of trust in and public support for the EU. A wide range of measures are necessary to allow the European Union to gain broad support as a government entity. ‘The low turnout for the recent European election illustrates how important this is,’ said foreign minister Frans Timmermans.

In the government’s view, Brussels also has a part to play in bringing Europe closer to its citizens. One way of doing this would be for members of the European Parliament to participate in debates in the House of Representatives more often. The European Commission should also take the step of explaining major legislative bills in the national parliaments. At the same time the Commission should listen more to the national parliaments when they voice objections to its proposals.

The government endorses the AIV’s conclusions that more transparency can boost public trust in EU institutions. Where possible, this issue will be raised in the relevant forums, for example when adapting the EU Regulation on public access to Union documents to the Treaty of Lisbon.

The government welcomes the recommendation to strengthen the supervisory role of the Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs. It would also be useful to have an independent European agency for statistics.

There are also a number of issues about which the government disagrees with the AIV. The government takes exception to the image it paints of cabinet members opposing European institutions. ‘Contrary to what is suggested in the report,’ it writes in the response, ‘the government’s mission is to make it as clear as possible to the public […] that measures have a clear added value for the Netherlands.’

In addition, the government disagrees with the conclusion that the troika (European Commission, ECB and IMF) lacks democratic accountability.