Legal reform Oversight

Members of Dutch parliament present draft European Information Law

On 17 March, two members of the Dutch parliament presented a draft European Information Law.

The draft law, drawn up by members Marit Maij and Anne Mulder, respective members of the then-ruling coalition parties the Social Democrats and the Liberals, intends to regulate the government’s information duties towards the Dutch parliament where it concerns European Union decision making. Whereas the parliament’s right to be informed already existed under Article 68 of the Dutch constitution, it is up until now dispersed in various pieces of parliamentary proceedings agreed at various points in time. The current draft law for the first time sets out to formalise the government’s information duties, codifying existing agreements and adding new ones. As the explanatory memorandum clarifies, information provided to the parliament should in principle be available to the public and open for public parliamentary debate.

The draft law, which appears to carry wide support across the political spectrum, follows after an extensive period of inquiry by the lower house’s European affairs committee. The committee analysed parliamentary information practices in various EU member states, visited their peers in Germany and Finland, and held an expert meeting in November last year. Only weeks after the expert meeting, the committee’s rapporteur on EU information, Pieter Omtzigt, presented a positioning paper with a number of concrete points for improvement. Among these points, the possibility of a European Information Law was explicitily mentioned.

The draft law is currently under scrutiny of the lower house. Due to national elections that took place in the same week as the draft law’s submission and concommitant coalition negotiations, a discussion and vote are not expected to take place anytime soon.

Of the EU’s current 28 member states, 12 have a formal law regulating information flows between government and parliament. The fact that a member state adopts an EU information law does not immediately indicate a transparency-friendlier political culture and the content of the arrangements may vary considerably. EU information laws can be found in a wide variety of geographical, political and constitutional member state contexts, while certain countries without such a law, such as Finland, are widely acknowledged as facilitating both strict parliamentary oversight and wide public access in EU affairs.