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News Kids on the Block: Mendeltje van Keulen opens European Law master

On 12 September the students of the European Law Master gathered in the Lorentzzaal for the festive opening of their programme.

After a word of welcome by Jorrit Rijpma, academic coordinator of the European Law programme and Stefaan Van den Bogaert, professor of European Law and director of the Europa Institute, the prizes for the best papers for the elective Europa in de Praktijk and the best master thesis in European law of the year 2016-2017 were awarded. 

Europa in de Praktijk Paper Prize

Because of the outstanding quality of their papers, the Europa Institute Paper Prize was awarded to Mats Reijman for his paper 'Turkije: een trots land op zoek naar een identiteit' and to Roeland Spruyt, who’s essay was entitled 'Het verschil met anderen: de Europese en Turkse cultuur vergeleken, over het 'vreemde' dat ons eigen wordt'.

Mats Reijman (l) and Roeland Spruyt (r)

Europa Institute Thesis Award

Rosanne van der Straten received the Europa Institute Thesis Award 2016-2017 from her supervisor Van den Bogaert. According to the jury all nominated theses are clearly of a very high level, but they felt that 'Rosanne stood out because of the novelty of the topic and the approach, the exceptional style and the way in which she connects the big picture with very concrete examples of the effects of posting, the very thorough research and the way in which she connects multiple debates in a way that shows true understanding and mastery.'

Rosanne van der Straten

Opening lecture Mendeltje van Keulen

The master programme was officially opened by Dr. Mendeltje van Keulen, who works as clerk for the committee on European Affairs of the Dutch Second Chamber. During her lecture ‘New kids on the Block: on the role of national parliaments in the European Union, Van Keulen shared valuable insights on the role of national parliaments in the EU institutional machinery and the relations between those parliaments.

From the start, Van Keulen referred to the committee for European Affairs and the many investments the Dutch Parliament has made in order to play an active role in the EU. In fact, the secondment of national parliamentary representatives of 41 Chambers to the EP and the many conferences between the Members of national parliaments and the European Parliament show that all national parliaments seek to improve their involvement in the EU system.

Van Keulen identified the lack of legitimacy in the EU as the problem to solve. Indeed, citizens do not feel represented on the EU level and it is unclear to whom European decision makers are accountable. She listed some possible cures and focused on three of them in particular: a stronger European Parliament, stronger national parliaments, and interparliamentary exchange.

Mendeltje van Keulen opens European Law programme

As to the first cure, Van Keulen observed that the European Parliament already gained more powers and had already become more professional over time. However, she also recognized that some problems persisted. The workings and the role of the European Parliament remain invisible to the larger public and its elections are considered second-order elections, the results of which were still determined by national politics.

Van Keulen then went on to discuss some ways in which the national parliaments ae involved. One way is indirect parliamentary scrutiny, which means parliaments debate the government’s mandate before sending its representatives to Brussels and evaluating their performances after their return. In this regard, Van Keulen observed that the Dutch Parliament was one of the more active ones. Another way is the subsidiarity test and its yellow and orange card procedures.

Van Keulen also argued that the many national parliaments have increasingly started to foster contact and form coalitions in order to influence EU politics. To that end, she pointed at several initiatives like the interparliamentary conferences, the national parliaments’ representatives in Brussels and the COSAC.

Finally, Van Keulen identified some arguments against the involvement of national parliaments. Indeed, national parliaments may be too different from each other to learn from each other or work together. Neither are they elected for EU politics, their vetoes may create a European gridlock, and they may lack the knowledge and resources to play a meaningful role on the EU level.

The different aspects of the topic were further discussed during the following reception in the Faculty Restaurant.

The Europa Institute would like to thank Van Keulen once again for her enthusiastic and revealing opening lecture.

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