The Dutch provinces and Europe

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1 The Dutch provinces and Europe

2 Regional authorities: pivot of European policy The European Commission wishes to move energetically forward with the 2000 Lisbon Agreement. According to this agreement, the European Union (EU) must become the most competitive knowledge economy in the world by Furthermore, the Commission wants to dedicate itself to the 2001 Göteborg agreement which states that the EU should give priority to environmental protection and sustainable development. In most of the 25 EU member states, regional authorities are indispensable for the execution of EU policy. This also applies to the Netherlands where the regional authority is known as province. The provinces not only contribute to implementation of European policy and upholding of European regulation, but also play a role in their development. In the European Constitution, the draft of which has been established, the influence of regional authorities on EU decisions is further strengthened. The Netherlands land of water land of knowledge With 16 million inhabitants, nearly 480 per km 2, the Netherlands is Europe s most densely populated country. The creation and development of the Netherlands are closely related to its geographical position. The greater part of the country is part of a delta, formed by the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt which discharge into the North Sea. Dike building and impoldering of tidal inlets and river branches, marsh cultivation and reclamation of lakes have all created more and more land for towns, villages, infrastructure, agriculture and conservation areas. Maintaining optimum water management and water quality are important tasks. Besides knowledge of agricultural production and food safety, knowledge of the many facets of water management is an important Dutch export product. Moreover, being Europe s hinterland gate, the Netherlands is an important country for trade, transport and distribution. 2

3 The Dutch provinces The twelve Dutch Provinces are different in dimension and character. The greater part of the Dutch population lives in the three western provinces, North- and South-Holland and Utrecht. Although these provinces are very urbanized, they contain large rural areas. Green space dominates the other provinces, but most inhabitants still live in small to medium towns. The provinces in figures Province Provincial capital Surface area in km 2 Provincial Council Provincial Number of employees members Executive members ( ) Groningen Groningen Fryslân Leeuwarden Drenthe Assen Overijssel Zwolle Gelderland Arnhem Flevoland Lelystad Utrecht Utrecht Noord-Holland Haarlem Zuid-Holland Den Haag Zeeland Middelburg Noord-Brabant s-hertogenbosch Limburg Maastricht

4 Management and tasks Once every four years, the population of each province directly elects a representative body, the Provincial Council. The Provincial Council prescribes and monitors the provinces policy and financial frameworks, and appoints an executive board, the Provincial Executive, which executes provincial policies. The Provincial Council members choose the Upper Chamber of the national parliament ( senate ). The Lower Chamber is elected directly by the citizens. The Chairman of both the Provincial Council and Provincial Executive is the governor (Queen s Commissioner). The governor is appointed by the government at the Provincial Council s recommendation. As head of provincial authorities, he (or she) is responsible to the Provincial Council. Besides this, he has some state duties. One of these is coordination of government departments active in the province. The governor also coordinates provincial disaster control. The provincial authorities are responsible for directing and implementing the various policy areas which are beyond the scope of local authorities. Examples include: environmental management, water management, physical planning (public), economic and social policy, countryside policy, public and youth welfare work and culture. 4

5 Dutch polity In 1579, the Netherlands consists of seven independently managed provinces. In that year, they conclude the Unie van Utrecht (Union of Utrecht) and form the Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden (Republic of the Seven United Netherlands). This republic is a federal state without central authority, it is chiefly a defence treaty. More than two centuries later, the Netherlands federal character came to an end. In 1795, under Napoleon, the provinces power was broken and a central authority was established under France s supervision. After Napoleon s fall in 1813, the Netherlands got its sovereignty back. The old provincial division remained, but power stayed with the central authority. The Netherlands became a kingdom under the House of Orange. To this day, public administration in the Netherlands consists of three spheres of government: the state (central), twelve provinces (regional) and almost 500 municipalities (local). The responsibilities and powers of these authorities are regulated in various acts, the foundation being the 1848 Constitution. The Netherlands is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. Provinces and municipalities can determine their own local and regional policy. Within the framework of national acts, they have authority to legislate through regulation. In comparison to many other European countries, Dutch provinces and municipalities levy few taxes. Their budget mainly consists of legislated contributions from the state. 5

6 Interprovinciaal Overleg (IPO) The twelve provinces work together within the Interprovinciaal Overleg, the IPO (Association of the Provinces of the Netherlands). The IPO is active in the same policy areas as the provinces. The main job of the IPO is to promote the provinces joint interests. The IPO is interlocutor, on behalf of the provinces, for other authorities (the state in particular), NGOs and European institutions. The municipalities also have a comparable institution for collaboration called the Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten, the VNG (Association of Dutch Municipalities). Twelve members of the Provincial Executive, one from each province, form the IPO s daily executive board. The general board is composed of sixty members of the Provincial Council, five from each province. The IPO s chairman is one of the 12 Governors. IPO administration is aided by an office of sixty employees. For nearly all important provincial tasks, the IPO has political advisory committees made up of members of the Provincial Executive responsible for those tasks. This also includes an advisory committee for European affairs. The IPO also often employs experts from the twelve provincial administrations. IPO s budget consists of 100% provincial contributions. 6

7 The IPO s European agenda ( ) On behalf of the Dutch provinces, the IPO dedicates itself to: a strong position for the regions in the European Constitution. The IPO supports the European Charter, which guarantees regional authority independence. The IPO strives for stronger application of the principle of subsidiarity: government decisions must be made and executed at grass roots level as close to the citizen as possible. This should also apply to the European Union; continuance of regional EU policy in the new budget period. The Dutch provinces would like to be able to keep contributing to the economic development of the Netherlands and the European Union, using the structure funds; the realisation of the Sixth and Seventh European Environment Action Programme, especially in the area of sustainable use of natural resources and sustainable waste management, and translation of this programme in regional policy; a EU agriculture and countryside policy which helps the agricultural sector to adjust to new European and global relations, but which also creates favourable conditions for the economic, social and physical development of the countryside regions. an executable and fundable implementation of the Water Framework Directive. This Directive has huge (financial) consequences for Dutch and provincial water management policy; 7

8 The Dutch provinces and the IPO in Europe Provinces and Europe To promote their interests and strengthen their position in Europe (particularly within the EU), the provinces and the IPO maintain relations with various other European and regional institutions. An overview. There is collaboration between various Dutch provinces and regional authorities in Europe and elsewhere. The aim is mostly to learn from each other through exchange of experiences. An example is the cooperation between the Dutch Province of Gelderland and the Polish region of Lubelski. The Province of Gelderland supports projects and policy development. This cooperation leads to working relations between Dutch and Polish companies and cultural and social organisations. Another example is The Province of Flevoland. This province works together with the Russian region of Dimitrov in the areas of agriculture, care of the elderly and healthcare, and education and culture. 8

9 IPO and Europe The IPO supports the provinces in becoming more Europe-proof, that is to say that their activities conform to European directives and that they actively anticipate EU policy. Because it is very important that the provinces are well informed about Europe, the IPO established, in 2001, together with the VNG and the state, the kenniscentrum (information centre) Europa Decentraal (www.europadecentraal.nl). This centre supplies relevant and up-to-date information about European developments and the European law (and also special Dutch water management authorities such as the water boards) Cooperation and consultation are important features of the Dutch management culture. This also applies to the promotion of European interests in the Netherlands. Fruitful cooperation with the state has developed in this area in recent years: The IPO and the European Union To maintain good contact with EU institutions, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU Council, the provinces and the IPO have established an outpost in Brussels: the Huis van de Nederlandse Provincies (House of the Dutch Provinces). An important formal facility for exerting influence on the EU decisionmaking process is the Committee of the Regions (CoR). This is the EU s official advisory body concerning the interests of local and regional authorities, but it also an important consultation platform for provincial (and municipal) politicians to exchange knowledge and experience and for cooperation. The Dutch delegation in the CoR consists of six provincial administrators and six municipal administrators, and also six + six alternate members. This means that all the Dutch provinces are represented in the CoR. The delegation s secretariat is provided by the IPO in cooperation with the VNG. The IPO, the VNG and the Dutch Ministries of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs consult each other on a monthly basis. During this consultation, information is exchanged and viewpoints are aligned. The IPO and VNG are also formally involved in assessing, through the state, new European Commission proposals. The IPO pays special attention to proposals which might have consequences for the provinces responsibilities and powers. 9

10 The IPO and European cooperation European regional and local authorities have various collaborations. In this way, they can better promote both their general and specific interests and be strong partners of EU institutions and the Council of Europe. The Dutch provinces and the IPO have good contacts with, amongst others: The IPO and the Council of Europe Local and regional administrators from the 45 member states of the Council of Europe form the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe (CLRAE). This Congress, at which Dutch provinces and municipalities are also represented, is the advisory body of the Council of Europe. The CLRAE encourages the governments of all European countries to respect and strengthen the position of local and regional authorities. The Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR): the umbrella organisation for about 40 national associations of local and regional administrations from almost all European countries. Assembly of European Regions (AER): the most important political organisation for European regions, which aims to advance regional democracy and inter-regional cooperation. The Conference of Peripheral and Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR) promotes the interests of Europe0s maritime regions. Several Dutch provinces are member of the North Sea Commission of the CPMR. The European Industrial Regions Association (EIRA): a collaboration between European regions which is geared towards advancing sustainable development as basis for a healthy balance between industrial production, service provision and the broadening of knowledge. 10

11 Huis van de Nederlandse Provincies (House of the Dutch Provinces) In 2000, the twelve Dutch provinces and the IPO established the Huis van de Nederlandse Provincies (HNP, in Brussels. Within the HNP, the provinces work together in four regional offices: the collaborations of northern Dutch Provinces (3 provinces), eastern Dutch Provinces (2 provinces), Randstad Region (4 provinces) and southern Dutch Provinces (3 provinces). The IPO has its own office in the Huis. Both the joint and the individual European interests of the provinces are promoted through the HNP. This occurs partly through: maintaining contacts with European institutions, the Dutch Permanent Representative in the EU, and other regional offices in Brussels. providing of information about the Netherlands and the Dutch provinces to the Brussels HNP contacts, but also passing information collected in Brussels on to the provinces and the IPO. For many Dutch provincial politicians and Dutch provincial contacts, the HNP is the main access channel to EU institutions and networks in Brussels. 11

12 Colophon This is a publication by Interprovinciaal Overleg Postbus NL-2500 BC The Hague Telephone +31 (0) Fax +31 (0) Text Zeggen & Schrijven, Amsterdam Design Jean Cloos Art Direction bv BNO, The Hague Printing RS Drukkerij B.V., Rijswijk IPO publication number 240 The Hague, October 2004

13 The Dutch provinces and Europe

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