Senate: Justice Minister acted incorrectly in EU Council of Ministers

16 December 2009

Senate: Justice Minister acted incorrectly in EU Council of Ministers

Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin acted incorrectly at the 30th December meeting of the Council of Ministers of the European Union when, on behalf of the Netherlands, he gave his approval to two EU decisions without waiting for the legally obligatory go-ahead from the Dutch national Senate, the ‘Eerste Kamer’ (literally, First Chamber’). By consciously ignoring its right to vote, Hirsch Ballin failed to respect the Senate’s constitutional role.

Tiny KoxThe Senate arrived at this conclusion after studying Hirsch Ballin’s initial reaction, which the body judged ‘not satisfactory’. SP Senator Tiny Kox, Chair of the Senate’s Standing Commission on Justice and Home Affairs, wrote to the minister informing him of the Senate’s unequivocal judgement. Premier Jan Peter Balkenende has also been informed, as Hirsch Ballin claimed to have been authorised by the Cabinet to ignore the Senate’s legal right to vote on the matter. “The Committee notes that an authorisation from the (national) council of ministers cannot render an incorrect decision a correct decision,” wrote Kox to Hirsch Ballin and Balkenende on behalf of the Standing Committee. The Senate also regrets the failure to react to other complaints, as well as the slow response to letters on the part of the Minister of Justice. “Failure to respond while the negotiations at EU level are continuing prevents a meaningful dialogue between government and parliament at a time when (policy) adjustments remain possible,” the letter concluded.

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