The Netherlands

   

Executive Accountability

#20
Key Findings
With generally good oversight mechanisms, the Netherlands falls into the middle ranks (rank 20) with respect to executive accountability. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Parliamentarians have only modest resources, though executive-oversight powers are adequate. Staff cuts at the independent Court of Audit have required frequent research outsourcing. The ombuds office helps citizens who are experiencing bureaucratic difficulties. The data-protection agency reported that hospitals have been particularly sloppy in protecting individual data.

General disinterest and disinformation efforts have had a deleterious effect on the public’s political knowledge. However, civic-mobilization campaigns are becoming increasingly common. The public-media sector produces high-quality policy programming, but is struggling to reach young people.

Political-party decision-making is centralized. While labor unions and business associations are formally integrated into government policymaking, professionalized lobbying has also taken hold. Labor unions are losing membership. The neo-corporatist “poldering” tradition systematically involves all kinds of associations in the policymaking process.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#9

To what extent are citizens informed of public policies?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual public policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of public policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of public policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of public policies.
Political Knowledge
7
Dutch citizens claim to spend slightly more time than the average European citizen on collecting political information. Nevertheless, the broader public does not seem to be well-informed on a wide range of government policies. This is due not to a lack of information, but many people find political information complicated and/or uninteresting, they often do not pay much attention to it. The Netherlands Institute for Social Research (Sociaal-Cultureel Planbureau, SCP) found in a 2012 survey that 28% of respondents thought politics was too complicated for them to understand, while 60% thought it was too complex for most others.
In addition to disinterest and an increasing knowledge gap between educational levels, increasing (foreign-led) efforts to disseminate disinformation and create “fake news” have had a deleterious effect on knowledge levels regarding political issues and decision-making. Moreover, studies conducted during the 2017 election showed that an increasing number of citizens from the younger cohorts have begun to avoid political news.

Research among voters in local elections shows that citizens hold the national government accountable for local policy. Moreover, they have more trust in local political institutions (mayor, aldermen, political parties) than in their national counterparts. Furthermore, people participate in local elections, but at much reduced rates in more participatory alternatives, while the public views the physical environment as the country’s most pressing policy issue.

In 2018 – 2019, the Our Money (Ons Geld) citizen initiative, which managed to put issues of money and (public) debt on the agenda, represented an exceptional case of active citizenship. One of its results was a WRR report recommending more diversity in the financial sector, an end to excessive debts, better preparation for the next financial crisis, and the establishment of a public bank for citizen savings. Another example of civic mobilization involved the 2018 mobilization of residents in areas plagued by airplane noise associated with Schiphol Airport, and the clear impact that activists and lobby groups had on the expansion plan for Schiphol Airport. Research by Bovens and Wille found that differences in education levels have become increasingly salient factors when it comes to citizens’ powers in processing policy information, political judgments about the European Union, issues of immigration and integration, and political leadership.

The SCP recently found that Dutch citizens split evenly over the issue of more or less direct influence by citizens. It is the less educated who demand more political influence, whereas higher educated citizens, especially those with tertiary qualifications, do not support the idea. A recent study into citizen attitudes to the European Union, undertaken by TNS/Kantar Nipo and commissioned by the Green Left party, found that Dutch citizens are caught in a dependence-cum-distrust situation: they instinctively distrust the European Union and would resist transferring more national powers to the EU level, but simultaneously believe that the European Union should have greater influence over most policy domains.

There have been a wide and broad range of initiatives across all levels of government in all kinds of citizen engagement projects, from interactive policymaking to citizen-budgets and citizen-juries, youth councils and local referendums, just to name a few. Public apathy in many participatory options and low levels of knowledge on policies co-exists with widespread discontent with politics and governance. A surge in street protests and large-scale demonstrations was evident in 2019. This was driven in part by the Dutch counterparts of the French “yellow vests,” students and other younger people united in Extinction Rebellion, and climate and animal activists. However, teachers, farmers and building-industry employees (and employers) all launched one or more mass demonstrations against government policies. Overall, it appears that citizen-initiated efforts to exert power outside and beyond government-sponsored participatory policy exercises are gaining in political salience.

Citations:
M. Bovens, and A. Wille, 2011. Diplomademocratie. Over spanningen tussen meritocratie en democratie, Bert Bakker

Stichting Kiezersonderzoek Nederland, 2016. Democratie dichterbij: Lokaal kiezersonderzoek 2016 (kennisopenbaarbestuur.nl)

NOS, Organisaties omwonenden van vliegvelden bundelen krachten, 16 May 2018

B. van den Braak,28 December 2018. Demonstreren toen en nu. (parlement.com, accessed 8 November 2019)

NRC Handelsblad, 17 October, 2019. Laat zien dat je met veel bent en verstoor de openbare orde.

WRR, 2019. Geld and schuld: de publieke rol van banken.

Jan Kleinnijenhuis, Anita M J van Hoof, Wouter van Atteveldt, The Combined Effects of Mass Media and Social Media on Political Perceptions and Preferences, Journal of Communication, Volume 69, Issue 6, December 2019, Pages 650–673, https://doi.org/10.1093/joc/jqz038

http://nieuwsmonitor.org/wp-content/uploads/onderzoeksrapport-MediaPolitiek.pdf

Does the government publish data and information in a way that strengthens citizens’ capacity to hold the government accountable?

10
 9

The government publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 8
 7
 6


The government most of the time publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 5
 4
 3


The government publishes data in a limited and not timely or user-friendly way.
 2
 1

The government publishes (almost) no relevant data.
Open Government
7
The most important and high-prestige knowledge institutes (CPB, PBL, SCP and WRR) regularly publish comprehensive, timely and accurate data. Such information is used in the annual information packages that accompany parliamentary deliberation and decision-making on the national budget. Throughout the year, government provides topical information about issues pertaining to ministerial policy agendas on the government website. For politically engaged citizens, it is thus quite possible to be well-informed on government policies. In the Edelman Trust Index 2019, the Netherlands scored a relatively high and unchanged 54 with regard to trust in government information, indicating an average “neutral” position falling between trust and distrust. Political parties sometimes openly express distrust in the numbers released by the high-prestige knowledge institutes if these contradict their policy preferences.

In other cases (e.g., the WODC research into drugs policy, the outbreak of Q-fever in rural areas, the continued use of carcinogenic agents in military paint and sensitivity to earthquakes in areas of gas exploitation), the government interfered in the findings of government-sponsored research. Open government regulation offers public access to most routine government information. Though the law also offers decision-makers plenty of opportunities to withhold or delay information if “necessary” for political convenience. There are several blatant cases of government misinformation and/or information delays, frequently because civil servants are alleged to have belatedly or incompletely informed ministers in order to shield ministers from media scrutiny or to spin the information.

Investigative journalism articles published in De Correspondent and Follow the Money have disclosed hidden governance issues and government facilitation of structural business lobbying arrangements.

Citations:
NRC-Handelblad, De eenzame strijd van een klokkenluider bij Justitie, 18 June, 2018

Volkskrant, Q-koortsslachtoffers voelen zich niet serieus genomen door de overheid: ‘Het is een grof schandaal,’ 26 September 2018

NRC-Handelsblad, Defensie gebruik nog steeds kankerverwekkende verf, 22 October 2018

2019 Edelman Trust Barometer (edelman.com, accessed 8 November 2019)

De Volkskrant, 2 October 2019. RIVM reageert op kritiek: stikstofmetingen deugen wel.

Follow the Money, 27 July 2019. ABDUP: al bijna 75 jaar de onzichtbare lobby van Nederlandse multinationals. (ftm.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#19

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
7
A comprehensive study on the information exchange between the States General and government in the Netherlands over the past 25 years concludes: “In a mature democracy the primacy of information provision to parliament ought to be in the hands of parliament itself; but in the Netherlands in 2010 de jure and de facto this is hardly the case. … De facto the information arena in which the cabinet and the parliament operate is largely defined and controlled by the cabinet.” This state of affairs reflects the necessity of forming government coalitions supported by the majority of the States General. As an institution, the States General is not necessarily a unified actor. As basically every parliamentary vote can result in the downfall of a government, this creates mutual dependence for survival: parliamentary groups supporting the government (part of the legislature) and government ministers (the executive) become fused, which threatens the democratic principle of control and accountability.

Moreover, the States General’s institutional resources are modest. Approximately 600 staff assist parliamentarians in developing legislation, knowledge storage and use, and ICT issues. Dutch members of parliament in large parliamentary factions have one staffer each, while members of parliament of smaller factions share just a few staffers. Members of parliament of coalition parties are usually better informed than opposition members of parliament. Members of parliament do have the right to summon and interrogate ministers, although the quality of the question-and-answer game is typified as: “Posing the right questions is an art; getting correct answers is grace.” Oversight and control in the Dutch States General is the prerogative of the departmentally organized permanent parliamentary committees, usually composed of members of parliament with close affinity to the policy issues of the department involved. The small Parliamentary Bureau for Research and Public Expenditure does not produce independent research, but provides assistance to the parliament.

Policy and program evaluations are conducted by the departments themselves, or by the General Audit Chamber (which has more information-gathering powers than the States General). Another more standardized mechanism is the annual Accountability Day, when the government reports on its policy achievements over the last year. Direct day-to-day contacts with officials are fuzzy and unsatisfactory due to the nature and interpretation of guidelines, and formal hearings between members of parliament and departmental officials are extremely rare. Members of parliament can ask officials to testify under oath only in the case of formal parliamentary surveys or investigations, but this is considered an extraordinarily time-consuming instrument and is used only in exceptional cases.

At present, members of parliament are exploring the possibility of creating a so-called light parliamentary investigation as a less time-consuming format that is somewhere between a hearing and an investigation. In 2016, a majority of parliament requested such an investigation-light procedure following the publication of the Panama Papers. Formally, the States General may use the expertise of a governmental advisory body, but this process is closely supervised by the minister under whose departmental responsibility the respective advisory body functions. Only the Rathenau Institute (for scientific and technological issues) works exclusively for the States General.

Citations:
Guido Enthoven (2011), Hoe vertellen we het de Kamer? Een empirisch onderzoek naar de informatierelatie tussen regering en parlement, Eburon

http://www.houseofrepresentatives.nl/administration/organization-chart/parliamentary-bureau-research-and-public-expenditure

Parlementaire enquêtes (tweede kamer.nl, consulted 10 November 2016)

Wikipedia, Parlementaire enquête in Nederland (nl.m.wikipedia.org, accessed 3 November 2018)

Krouwel, A. P. M., & Koedam, J. (2015). The Netherlands: Investiture behind closed doors. In B. E. Rasch, S. Martin, & J. A. Cheibub (Eds.), Parliaments and Government Formation: Unpacking Investiture Rules (pp. 253-274). Oxford: Oxford University press.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not request government documents.
Obtaining Documents
6
The government has to provide correct information to the States General (according to Article 68 of the constitution). However, this is often done somewhat defensively, in order to protect “ministerial responsibility to parliament” and a “free consultative sphere” with regard to executive communications. Providing the States General with internal memos, policy briefs (e.g., on alternative policy options), interdepartmental policy notes or advice from external consultants is viewed as infringing on the policy “intimacy” necessary for government-wide policy coordination, as well as on the state’s interests. As political scientist Hans Daalder has noted: “In practice, it is the ministers that decide on the provision of information requested.”

Citations:
Guido Enthoven (2011), Hoe vertellen we het de Kamer? Een empirisch onderzoek naar de informatierelatie tussen regering en parlement, Eburon

R.B. Andeweg & G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and Politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: 174-182.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
9
Parliamentary committees may invite ministers to provide testimony or answer questions. Outright refusal to answer such a request occurs only rarely. Nevertheless, ministers often do not answer the questions in a forthright manner. Every week, parliamentarians have the opportunity to summon ministers and pose a seemingly unlimited number of questions. Recently, the minister for public health canceled international commitments in favor of dealing with parliamentary issues concerning the bankruptcy of two local hospitals.

Citations:
R.B. Andeweg & G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and Politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: 174-182.

NOS, Minister Bruins wil vinger in de pap bij keuze overnamekandidaat ziekenhuis Lelystad, 2 November 2018

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
9
Parliamentary committees can and often do invite experts to answer questions, or to facilitate the parliamentarian committee members in asking questions and interpreting the answers. Limited finances are usually the only real constraint on the number of experts summoned.

Citations:
R.B. Andeweg & G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and Politics of the Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: 163-174.

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
9
Under the present government, there are 11 ministries and 12 (fixed) parliamentary committees (vaste kamercommissies). Only the prime minister’s Department of General Affairs lacks an analogous dedicated parliamentary committee. There are also fixed committees for interdepartmental policymaking on aggregate government expenditure, European affairs and foreign trade, and development aid. Parliamentary committees usually have 25 members, representing all political parties with seats in the States General; they specialize in the policy issues of their dedicated departments and inform their peers (i.e., tell them how to vote as part of the party voting-discipline system). Members of parliament in these parliamentary oversight committees usually have close contacts with (deputy) ministers and high-level civil servants in the departments they oversee. Some observers see this as having contributed to a mutual interweaving of the executive and legislative branch of the government, thereby diminishing the executive’s accountability to the legislature. There are approximately 1,700 public and non-public committee meetings per year. By giving the committees the right to introduce, discuss and vote on motions (without a subsequent plenary debate and voting), the pressure on the plenary meetings could be reduced, and the oversight role of the committees strengthened.

There has been a debate about the Committee on Security (Commissie Stiekem), which includes all leaders of the political parties, as some lawmakers have expressed concern about a lack of effective parliamentary oversight on crucial security issues. Very little is known about why such criticism was voiced and how members look at their role in the parliamentary committee. Other committees have public sessions (since 1966) that are broadcast, which means that there is more information available on the activities of the various political parties. Over time, the core of parliamentary activity has moved from the plenary sessions to the committees.

Citations:
Commissies (tweedekamer.nl, consulted 6 November 2014)
S. Otjes, 6 February 2019, Wie bepaalt de agenda van de Tweede Kamer? (stukroodvlees.nl, accessed 8 November 2019)

G. H. Hagelstein, De parlementaire commissies (Nederlands parlementsrecht, Monografie VI,
Dissertatie Groningen 1991; Groningen: Wolters-Noordhoff, 1991, xix + 443 blz., ISBN
90 01 36530 2.

Hijzen, Constant. 2013. “More Than a Ritual Dance. The Dutch Practice of Parliamentary
Oversight and Control of the Intelligence Community.” Security and Human Rights
24; 227-238.

Media

#20

To what extent do media in your country analyze the rationale and impact of public policies?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing public policies. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
7
Dutch public television and radio stations produce high-quality information programs analyzing government decisions on a daily basis. Of the 13 national public broadcasters in the Netherlands, eight may be said to consider it their task to inform the public about governmental affairs and decision-making. Nevertheless, the National Broadcasting Organization (NPO) is facing significant difficulties. Broadcasting organizations have lost as many as a million paying members in recent years, and members’ average age now is 58. Younger people are increasingly shifting to online sources. In political circles, the NPO is regarded as inert, complicated and wasteful. Right-wing populist parties criticize NPO as being left-leaning; for their part, liberals and commercial broadcasters see the NPO as being state-subsidized competition. Some political effort has been made to rebalance public and advertisement-derived funding in order to make NPO budgets leaner. The recent government plans for reforming the NPO (less time for advertising, more cooperation between regional and local broadcasters, more online content, and more centralized leadership among a diverse set of broadcasting organizations) have drawn considerable criticism.

Although newspaper circulation dropped again in 2018, a majority of Dutch citizens (55%) still read a newspaper or listened to the radio every day as recently as that year. Newspaper readers are to be found with relatively more frequency among the older and more highly educated population segments, and digital subscriptions are on the rise. The number of high-quality newspapers is fairly low. Younger people spend more time listening, watching and communicating on online platforms than do older people. Social-media platforms have become sources of news even for journalists. Regional and local newspapers in particular are experiencing severe financial troubles, owing to strong consolidation and concentration tendencies, and there has been a significant increase the number of one-paper and even no-paper cities. The internet is used daily by 86% of Dutch citizens.

The Commissariat for the Media, which is tasked with monitoring the diversity and accuracy of media information about government and public-policy issues, has reported a continuous and severe concentration in the ownership of media outlets. Yet it has also stated that this has not as yet resulted in a lack of pluralism or an impoverishment of news sources and varieties. In the digital sphere, viewers and consumers clearly have more choices. The past decade has seen a large expansion in digital radio and television programming. This has resulted in a richer supply of broadcasters, bundled in so-called plus packages, and more recently of podcasts, which serve their target groups with theme-specific broadcasts. Mediamonitor 2019 reported that compared to citizens of other countries, Dutch citizens have high trust in media reports and report relatively little fake news.

Public broadcasting – an important source of media plurality – is increasingly under pressure due to reductions in revenue from advertising (advertisers moving to social media). Moreover, the challenges of “fake news” and other methods of misinformation are significant, and the government has expressed concerns regarding the quality and pluralism of online news outlets and information.

Citations:
Mediamonitor 2018. Media bedrijven en markten; Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2018 ((mediamonitor.nl, accessed 3 November 2018)

Mediamonotor, 2019 (https://www.mediamonitor.nl/wp-content/uploads/Mediamonitor-2019-English-summary.pdf)

Rathenau Instituut, 21 November 2018. Schriftelijke bijdrage van het Rathenau Instituut|Rondetafelsgesprek Toekomst van het medialandschap, Vaste Kamercommissie OCW

De Sociale Staat van Nederland 2019 (https://www.scp.nl/Publicaties/Alle_publicaties/Publicaties_2019/De_sociale_staat_van_Nederland_2019)

NRC Next, 27 November 2019. Vier publieke omroepen: welke wordt het?

NRC Next, 18 June, 2019. Moet meer regienieuws de omroep redden?

Parties and Interest Associations

#13

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and issue agendas are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Decision-Making
4
The dominant political view is that government interference in private organizations like political parties is incompatible with the role of the state in a liberal democracy. A law for internal party democracy is appropriate for countries with a history of non-democratic governance (e.g., Germany, some states in southern Europe and in central and eastern Europe). However, in the Netherlands with its strong democratic tradition, many consider it superfluous. Several recent reports show the vulnerability of Dutch democracy to (international) manipulation through weak controls over and accountability for party finance, political campaigning and candidate selection. For example, some political parties deal with their representatives’ ethical issues within internal councils or executive organs, political parties report inflated numbers of formal members in order to boost state subsidies, and candidate lists and leadership-succession practices frequently lack transparency, illustrating Robert Michels’ thesis that political parties act as oligarchies. In addition, political parties are not obliged to have a membership organization or conduct internal decision-making practices democratically. One party (the anti-immigrant party PVV) has only one member – its leader – and not even its members of parliament or local elected officials are able to join the party they represent. Some political scientists therefore advocate a separate law on political parties and an independent (non-state) commission for oversight and enforcement.

The very narrow basis of political parties is reflected in their membership figures. Political-party membership reached an all-time low of 285,851 in 2015. It increased to 315,000 in 2018 (2.4% of the electorate), owing to an increase in young voters joining the Green Left and Forum for Democracy. Approximately 10% of party members are considered active. Frequently party activism is used as a launching pad for a political career. Across all major political parties, political activists and (semi-)professionals now dominate decision-making with regard to candidate lists and political agendas. Political parties are not bottom-up movements. Rather, they are intermediaries between political elites and their electorates, with political-party members as links. Intra-party democracy (e.g., party congresses, election of party leaders and intra-party referendums) sometimes prove to be counterproductive. One former minister of defense and Labor party member commented: “Party congresses don’t buy combat planes.” Party leadership succession, even in political parties with some tradition of intra-party democracy (e.g., Labor and D66), is not democratically regulated, but is often determined by opaque, “spontaneous” selection processes managed by party elites.

The functional loss of political parties as clear representatives of social groups reverberates across the political system at all levels. Particularly the mobilization and integration into politics of lower-educated citizens has declined. Paired with the decline of the centrist parties (in particular the social-democratic PvdA and Christian democratic CDA), the rise of more extremist and fringe parties, increasing electoral volatility, parliamentary fragmentation, polarization on particularly cultural issues and strong anti-establishment sentiments have created anxieties regarding the ethical practices of politicians and political parties.

Citations:
R.B. Andeweg and G.A. Irwin (2014), Governance and Politics of The Netherlands. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 80-95

Montequieu Instituut, Er moet in Nederland, net als in Duitsland, een ‘Parteiengesetz’ komen, december 2012 (montesquieu-instituut.nl)

NRC Handelsblad, 26 January 2019. Kabinet: verbod op partijfinanciering van buiten de EU.

NRC Handelsblad, 9 March 2019. Politieke partijen die regels ontwijken – en een ministerie dat steeds wegkijkt.

T. van der Meer, Democratische doemdenkers hebben het mis, Sociale Vraagstukken, 18 January 2017 (socialevraagstukken.nl, accessed 3 November 2018)

https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/rapporten/2018/02/01/rapport-het-publieke-belang-van-politieke-partijen

To what extent are economic interest associations (e.g., employers, industry, labor) capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Employers & Unions)
8
For a long time, there was no lobbying culture in the Netherlands in the usual sense. Instead, prominent members of labor unions and business associations are regular members of high-level informal networks that also include high-level civil servants and politicians. Members of these networks discuss labor market and other important socioeconomic policy issues. These processes have become institutionalized. For instance, there are tripartite negotiations in which employers, employees and government experts are fixed discussion partners in the early stages of decision-making regarding labor issues. A similar process takes place for regular negotiations with economic interest associations. The analytic capacities of business and labor associations are well-developed. However, membership in trade unions has shown a continuous decline, with younger people in particular rejecting the idea of union membership. In addition, members and supporters of trade unions and professional and commercial associations frequently have more radical opinions than their representatives. In recent demonstrations, especially by farmers, teachers and hospital workers, association representatives in negotiations with the government were called back by their followers.

However, this institutionalized “poldering ” model has changed somewhat in recent years. There is now a Professional Association for Public Affairs (BVPA) that boasts 600 members (four times the number of parliamentarians) and a special public-affairs professorship at Leiden University. The professionalization of lobbying is said to be necessary in order to curb unethical practices such as the creation of foundations or crowdsourcing initiatives as a means of pursuing business interests. The “quiet politics” (Culpepper) of business lobbying through organizations such as the Commissie Tabaksblat, the Amsterdam (later Holland) Financial Center (Engelen), or Dutch Trade Investment Board (Follow the Money) has proven more than successful in influencing public policies on corporate governance, in easing regulation of the banking and financial sector, and in keeping taxes for business low. There is convincing evidence that in terms of election programs and promises, over the long run, Dutch households have been systematically disadvantaged compared to corporations and business. For example, tax reductions and exemptions for business were systematically higher than for ordinary citizens.

Citations:
P.D. Culpepper, 2010. Quiet Politics and Business Power. Corporate Control in Europe and Japan, Cambridge University Press

E. Engelen, 2014. Der schaduwelite voor en na de crisis. Niets geleerd, niets vergeten, Amsterdam University Press

NRC-Handelsblad, Vooral bedrijven krijgen hun zin, burgers niet, 8 October 2018

W. Bolhuis, Van woord tot akkoord: een analyse van verkiezingsprogramma’s en regeerakkoorden, 1885-2017, Universiteit Leiden

W. Bolhuis, Elke formatie faalt. Verkiezingsbeloftes die nooit werden waargemaakt, Uitgeverij Brooklyn, 2018

NRC Next, 30 August 2019. Vergeet de jongeren niet, zegt de SER.

Brief Minister van Medische Zorg, 5 November 2019. Arbeidsmarktbeleid en opleidingen zorgsector.

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
8
Policymaking in the Netherlands has a strong neo-corporatist (“poldering”) tradition that systematically involves all kinds of interest associations in the early stages of the policymaking process – not just with regard to business and labor issues, but also in the education, care and health sectors. Owing to their well-established positions, associations such as the consumer association, all kinds of environmental NGOs, religious associations, municipal (Vereniging voor Nederlandse Gemeenten) and provincial interests (InterProvinciaal Overleg), and medical and other professional associations (e.g., teachers, universities, legal professions) can influence policymaking through the existing consensus-seeking structures. Trade-offs are actively negotiated with ministries, other involved governments, stakeholder organizations and even NGOs. Furthermore, non-economic interest organizations react to policy proposals by ministries and have a role in amending and changing the proposals in the early stages of the policymaking process. They may also become involved at a later stage, as policies are implemented.

During the cabinet-formation process from April to October 2017, many non-economic associations – representing the arts, education, the elderly and the care sector – inundated negotiators with policy memos and demands. For example, the citizen initiative led by Hugo Borst and Carin Greamers contained 10 policy recommendations, and was later underwritten by practically all relevant stakeholder associations and received support in parliament. Sometimes, as in a recent taxation debate between the association of social housing corporations and the government, the tradition of building consensus through “poldering ” can quickly become a process of hard bargaining. A collaboration of activists opposing low-altitude flights (Samenwerkende Actiegropen Tegen Laagvliegen) justified their resistance to a new airport using reports that countered departmental policy research, and by citing expert opinions on EU rules (e.g., on issues of nitrogen thresholds and a level playing field in business competition).

Citations:
F. Hendriks and Th. Toonen (eds), Schikken plooien. De stroperige staat bij nader inzien, Assen, Van Gorcum, 1998

J. Woldendorp, The Polder Model: From Disease to Miracle? Dutch Neo-Corporatism 1965-2000, Free University Amsterdam, 2005

Woldendorp, J.J. (2014). Blijvend succes voor het poldermodel? Hoe een klein land met een kleine economie probeert te overleven op de wereldmarkt. In F.H. Becker & M. Hurenkamp (Eds.), De gelukkige onderneming. Arbeidsverhoudingen voor de 21ste eeuw (Jaarboek voor de sociaal-democratie, 2014) (pp. 211-227). Amsterdam: Wiardi Beckman Stichting/Uitgeverij Van Gennep.

NOS, Woningcorporaties: belastingmaatregel van tafel, anders huren omhoog, 6 October 2018

NRC Next, 25 juni 2019. ‘Maatschappelijke kosten Lelystad Airport onderschat.’

Independent Supervisory Bodies

#30

Does there exist an independent and effective audit office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent audit office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent audit office, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent audit office, but its role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an independent and effective audit office.
Audit Office
7
The Netherlands’ General Audit Chamber is the independent organ that audits the legality, effectiveness and efficiency of the national government’s spending. The court reports to the States General and government, and its members are recommended by the States General and appointed by the Council of Ministers. Parliament frequently consults with this institution and in many cases this leads to investigations. Investigations may also be initiated by ministers or deputy ministers. However, such requests are not formal due to the independent status of the General Audit Chamber. Requests by citizens are also taken into account. Every year, the chamber checks the financial evaluations of the ministries. Chamber reports are publicly accessible and can be found online and as parliamentary publications (Kamerstuk). Through unfortunate timing in view of (more) important political developments, in recent years such evaluations played only a minor role in parliamentary debates and government accountability problems. By selecting key issues in each departmental domain, the General Audit Chamber hopes to improve its efficacy as instrumental advice. In addition, there is an evident trend within the chamber to shift the focus of audits and policy evaluations from “oversight” to “insight.” In other words, the chamber is shifting from ex post accountability to ongoing policy-oriented learning. Unfortunately, this has been accompanied by a substantial reduction in resources for the Audit Chamber, resulting in a loss of 40 full-time employees and the need to outsource research frequently.

Citations:
http://www.rekenkamer.nl/Over_de_Algemene_Rekenkamer

P. Koning, Van toezicht naar inzicht, Beleidsonderzoek Online, July 2015

Algemene Rekenkamer, Een toekomstbestendige Algemene Rekenkamer, 13 October 2016 (rekenkamer.nl, consulted 10 November 2016)

Algemene Rekenkamer, Ambtelijke baas Algemene Rekenkamer naar Authorities Financiële Mededinging, Nieuwbericht 28 August 2017

Does there exist an independent and effective ombuds office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an effective and independent ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
8
The National Ombudsman is a “high council of state” on a par with the two houses of the States General, the Council of State and the Netherlands General Audit Chamber. Like the judiciary, the high councils of state are formally independent of the government. The National Ombudsman’s independence from the executive is increased by his/her appointment by the States General (specifically by the Second Chamber or Tweede Kamer). The appointment is for a term of six years, and reappointment is permitted. Recently, irked by the critical attitude of the former ombudsman, parliament made a series of stumbles, first by nominating a former interest-group leader to the post, who resigned after much public criticism; then 13 months passed before the present ombudsman, a renowned judge, formally took over. The National Ombudsman office was established to give individual citizens an opportunity to file complaints about the practices of government before an independent and expert body. Where the government is concerned, it is important to note that the National Ombudsman’s decisions are not legally enforceable. The ombudsman publishes his or her conclusions in annual reports. The ombudsman’s tasks are shifting toward providing concrete and active assistance to citizens who – due to debt and poverty, digitalization and other problems with access to government regulation – have lost their way in the bureaucratic process. On such issues, the ombudsman’s reports have in recent years become harsher in their judgments, as was the case for his forerunner. The national ombudsman is assisted by deputies tasked with addressing problems facing children and veterans.

Citations:
De Nationale Ombudsman, Mijn onbegrijpelijke overheid. Verslag van de Nationale ombudsman over 2012.

De Nationale Ombudsman, Persoonlijk…of niet? Digitaal…of niet? (jaarverslag.nationaleombudsman.nl, con sulted 6 Novermber 2014)

http://www.nationaleombudsman.nl/?gclid=CMPv8vGltrcCFclZ3godZH0AkQ

Jaarverslag Nationale Ombudsman, 2017, Tweede Kamer, vergaderjaar 2017-18, 34 890, nr. 2

Ombudsagenda, 2019. (Nationale ombudsman, accessed 8 November 2019)

Is there an independent authority in place that effectively holds government offices accountable for handling issues of data protection and privacy?

10
 9

An independent and effective data protection authority exists.
 8
 7
 6


An independent and effective data protection authority exists, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


A data protection authority exists, but both its independence and effectiveness are strongly limited.
 2
 1

There is no effective and independent data protection office.
Data Protection Authority
5
The Dutch Data Protection Agency (Authoriteit Persoonsgegens, DPA) succeeded the “College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens” (CBP) in 2016, and simultaneously saw its formal competencies enhanced by the right to fine public and private organizations in violation of Dutch and since mid-2018 European data protections laws (the General Data Protection Regulation, GDPR).

Effective data protection is practically impossible since 2016 for a number of reasons: many capable personnel have left the DPA, even though the number of staff has increased; the new leadership is considered to be in disarray; the organization is under-financed; hardly any consequential fines have been imposed; “naming and shaming” appears to work, but oversight capacity is lacking; laws and regulations are frequently changing, and consequently monitoring and jurisprudence are constantly “in the making.” It looks like the DPA is evolving from a supervisory body to an organization that advises both public and private organizations, and individual citizens on privacy issues, and on how to deal with personal data in ways that (more or less) comply with ever changing regulations and interpretations. All in all, the DPA operates in self-contradictory ways (as both a “hard” inspectorate, and a “soft” advisory body that “names and shames,” and advises commercial and public data-users and data-providers) in a technologically turbulent environment. In 2019, the DPA found that most data leaks are caused through sloppiness in addressing documents and emails; that this occurs more in institutions of care than anywhere else; and that victims are usually individuals rather than entire categories of people. One exception led to a €460,000 fine for a hospital that had failed to protect its patient files sufficiently. Also in 2019, the DPA received an additional €3.4 million in funding for enforcement of the General Decree for Data Protection (Algemene Verordening Gegevensbescherming, AVG) and EU privacy rules.

Citations:
https://www.hr-kiosk.nl/hoofdstuk/privacy/autoriteit-persoonsgegevens#on-rust
https://nl.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoriteit_Persoonsgegevens
https://www.techzine.nl/nieuws/411568/nationale-politie-krijgt-boete-van-de-autoriteit-persoonsgegevens.html

Volkskrant, Tweede kamer is gerommel by Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens zat, 13 July, 2018

VPNGids.nl, Onderzoek Autoriteit Persoonsgegegeven: Messte datalekken vinden plaats vanwege fouten in adressering (vpngids.nl, accessed 4 November 2019)

Tweakers, 12 June 2019. Authorities Persoonsgegeven krijgt extra geld voor handhaving AVG. (tweeakters.net, accessed 4 November 2019)
Back to Top