Are civil servants allowed to freely voice their political woes?
In October, the Provincial Executive in Friesland reprimanded four civil servants who had signed an incendiary letter asking the government to adopt a more active climate policy. Wim Voermans, Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law, feels that the Executive made a mistake.
Voermans tweeted the following: ‘During the 1983 constitutional review, it was decided that civil servants do have freedom of expression. The policy imposed by the Provincial Executive in Friesland removes that freedom and violates the Dutch Constitution.' In his tweet, he draws on a parliamentary document dating back to the 1970s: 'Nowadays, there’s a firmer belief that constitutional fundamental rights apply to everyone, regardless of their relationship with the government. That means civil servants can also invoke those rights.' In other words: civil servants are also entitled to openly express their concerns, even if they conflict with the policies of the authority for which they work.
Professor Hansko Broeksteeg from Radboud University in Nijmegen takes a different view, however, referring to Article 10 of the Dutch Central and Local Government Personnel Act.
Read this article (in Dutch) in Binnenlands Bestuur
Photo: Jackson Schaal through Unsplash