Labour Party blocks Parliament's resistance to EU interference in criminal law

17 February 2006

Labour Party blocks Parliament's resistance to EU interference in criminal law

The PvdA (Labour Party) is supporting the government in its decision to permit more EU influence on Dutch criminal law. The social democrats refused to back an SP motion to put pressure on the cabinet to resist such interference, despite the fact that the resolution was supported by the parliamentary groups of the VVD (right wing market liberals) and D66 (centrist liberals), two members of the three-party governing coalition. "This is just the same as supporting the European Constitution, which was rejected by the Dutch people on 1st June,” declared SP member of Parliament Jan de Wit, who presented the motion.

The European Commission had announced that it intended to make use of the power attributed to it by the European Court of Justice to incorporate criminal penalties into directives, measures which would be obligatory for member states. Minister of Justice Piet Hein Donner has stated his view that the Commission could make something a criminal offence even if our national authorities were opposed, and yet refused to offer any resistance to this, to the dismay of every parliamentary group except that of the minister's own party, the CDA (Christian Democrats).

Jan de WitMr Donner called Mr De Wit's motion 'unacceptable', implying that should it be approved he would resign. The PvdA presented an explanation of vote stating that in reality it wished to support the motion, but that in view of the minister's statement it would not do so, not wishing to put his position in jeopardy. The Labour Party was thus clearly putting the interests of the cabinet before the interests of the country and claiming the right itself to specify what should or should not belong to the realm of the criminal law. As Mr De Wit said, "The PvdA had in this case clearly not considered the interests of the nation, but rather its own wish to be able, following next year's elections, to govern in a coalition with the CDA. This is hardly a sound motive."

The influence of the European Commission on criminal law in the member states could receive a big boost from this. The Netherlands is losing, through the Commission's activities, the right to decide for itself what we find sufficiently bad for it to justify the use of the criminal law. "We are undermining a system of rights and duties carefully constructed in the Netherlands over hundreds of years,” said De Wit.

Moreover, numerous European countries have declared such a development to be unacceptable, strongly criticising the power-hungry behaviour of the European Commission.

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