Too much interference from Europe in Dutch criminal law

15 October 2009

Too much interference from Europe in Dutch criminal law

The influence of the European Union on Dutch criminal law is growing ever greater, according to Arda Gerkens, Member of Parliament for the SP. Gerkens is calling on the Minister of Justice to take a more critical stance in relation to EU with a direct bearing on the country's criminal law. “The SP is in favour of European cooperation in dealing with cross-border criminality," says Gerkens. "The EU should not, however, prescribe what is or is not a criminal act, or the extent of the punishment which any such act should attract. That is a national responsibility."

Arda GerkensIn recent months the EU has put forward proposals regarding environmental pollution, child pornography, trafficking in people, intellectual property and drugs. In some cases these involve making a certain form of behaviour illegal, in others an attempt to prescribe and make obligatory a certain level of punishment.

A recent example is the ban on Benzylpiperazine, a drug rarely encountered in the Netherlands and one for which no adverse effects have been demonstrated. “Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin has simply accepted this," says Gerkens, "but I see it as a dangerous precedent. Despite the lack of any sound arguments, the Netherlands is adapting national policies on drugs just because the EU says we must."

Europe's desire to prescribe penalties is, in Gerkens' view, a step too far. “We must not allow the EU to say how severe particular punishments in the member states should be. That's a decision for the member states themselves, taken by the people of the individual countries. Of course the member states should cooperate to tackle cross-border criminality, but that doesn't require the EU to specify the severity of punishment.”

Arda Gerkens fears a further 'Europeanisation' of the country's criminal law when the Lisbon Treaty comes into force. "The Netherlands will lose its right of veto in the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) and police cooperation, which will mean that we can no longer block proposals which bear upon our criminal law. The Minister of Justice must now, therefore, kick-start a discussion at European level around the limits which should be placed on the influence of the European Union on our national criminal law, before it's too late. The SP says 'yes' to European cooperation to address cross-border criminality, but no to a single European criminal law code."

You are here