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Dutch cabinet considers legal coercion towards provinces in nitrogen strategy

At present, the cabinet still maintains that all provinces are motivated to cooperate with the sensitive issue of the nitrogen strategy. However, there are major concerns that the political landscape will look very different once the elections for the Provincial Councils on 15 March have been held.

New legislation

Besides the BoerBurgerBeweging (Farmer-Citizen party), the provincial sections of the coalition parties VVD and CDA are also highly critical of the cabinet’s nitrogen strategy. The cabinet is therefore considering new legislation to force reluctant provinces to implement the nitrogen strategy - if such a law passes the new Senate.

New nitrogen legislation to force provinces to implement certain measures would therefore not surprise Rogier Kegge, Associate Professor of general administrative and environmental law at Leiden University. ‘If the political landscape changes and provinces put on the brakes, then you will see that the national government will indeed start looking for more instruments to follow through.’

Administrative 'bazooka'

The Nature Conservation Act currently does not provide the national government with any means to enforce the nitrogen strategy in provinces. However, the central government could intervene on the basis of the Provinces Act in the event of gross neglect of duties: the central government would then take over the nitrogen strategy at the province's expense. Kegge: ‘This would be an administrative "bazooka". Then you have to be very bold as a province, and not adopt an area plan for nitrogen at all, for example.’

There may, instead, be constant discussions about how provinces want to proceed, says Kegge. ‘Ultimately, there has to be a realistic area plan. But what is realistic? The BoerBurgerBeweging might say: we want more technical innovation. And the more left-wing, greener parties might say: you have to tackle livestock at some point anyway.’

Thus, the nitrogen debate in the Dutch House of Representatives may repeat itself again in the provinces after the elections.

Read the full article in Dutch newspaper NRC

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