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The Right to Assess the Budget of the Dutch Parliament in Light of European Economic Governance

On Thursday 14 December at 16.15 hrs Michal Diamant will defend her doctoral thesis that addresses the right to assess the budget of the Dutch parliament in light of European economic governance. The defence will take place at the Academy Building of Leiden University. Supervisors are Professor Wim Voermans and Dr Michiel van Emmerik.

Michal Diamant.
Michal Diamant

In her doctoral thesis Michal asks what the consequences are of European economic governance - all rules and procedures in the area of the economy and the budget in the Economic and Monetary Union - for the right of the Dutch parliament to assess the budget. The right to exercise influence on the expenditure of national resources - the right to assess the budget - is one of the oldest rights of the Dutch parliament. It guarantees democratic involvement in decision-making on the budget, and how taxpayers’ money is spent, ensuring that parliament has a substantial impact on the government’s budget policy.

The right to assess the budget under pressure

In recent years, however, the right to assess the budget has come under pressure. As a result of the eurocrisis the European fiscal rules have been substantially tightened. In addition, EU institutions are increasingly getting more grip on the national budgets and the way in which national resources are spent. This is problematic because being able to decide at national level where realized resources are to be spent is pre-eminently a national competence. And these decisions acquire democratic legitimacy through the involvement of parliament.

Influence of European economic governance on national policy

In her doctoral thesis Michal provides a clear overview of the parliamentary right to assess the budget and European economic governance. This detailed overview of the rules and procedures surrounding European economic governance reveal a complex situation where national government finances are constantly being monitored by European institutions. As a result, the decisions taken in relation to Europe have a substantial impact on national budgetary and economic policy choices and national budget procedures.

The research then proceeds to consider what this implies for the democratic legitimacy of the national budget: to what extent is there still room for parliament to exercise its right to assess the budget? It is recommended that the involvement of national parliament in decision-making in relation to Europe is reinforced in two ways. First, via greater involvement of the national parliament at EU level, such as collaborations with other national parliaments, and secondly at national level in the monitoring of the government and its actions at EU level.

Professor Wim Voermans and Dr Michiel  van Emmerik on Michal Diamant

“Michal Diamant’s research demonstrates how the necessity of healthy financial management and the involvement of citizens in the allocation and budget of government finances always rub against each other. The coordination of budgets and legal preconditions necessitated by the eurocrisis makes democratic involvement, guaranteed by our Dutch Constitution, more difficult due to the complexity of phases and opportunities for meaningful impact. The thesis superbly exposes the basic principles and assumptions of democratic involvement in budgets and clearly shows the current dynamics in this regard. The many EU and euro coordinating rules and procedures are in theory in line with the Dutch constitutional system, but are these still feasible for Dutch members of parliament?’

Throughout her research Michal Diamant regularly had close contact with members of parliament and civil servants who are involved in incorporating and applying the European rules. She was often requested to provide advice as an expert in the area, so it really was a great project. Michal knows what she is talking about. She has witnessed and experienced the current situation from close hand. And the academic knowledge she has gained, is now being put to use in public service. A few months ago she started work as a civil servant at the Ministry of Justice and Security and they are no doubt rubbing their hands in glee with her arrival."

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