Lobbying in the Netherlands is regulated even less than in Brussels. Thousands of lobbyists, mostly representatives from for-profit interests, try to influence decision-making in The Hague. This could easily lead to corporate capture of decision-making. That is why a coalition of civil society organisations came together to launch Lobbywatch Netherlands (NL) in December 2016. At the launch, a manifesto with 6 core demands was presented, as well as a study on the lobby on glyphosate in the Netherlands.
Coalition core demands
Since lobbying in the Netherlands is barely regulated, with thousands of lobbyists roaming freely and with self-regulation not being an option, Lobbywatch NL demands action by government and Parliament. It has formulated six core demands:
- Obligatory legislative footprint for laws and government decisions
- Full disclosure of the agenda of government ministers, MPs and senior civil servants such as the permanent representatives in Brussels
- A mandatory lobby register
- A cool-down period for politicians and senior civil servants
- Scientific studies ordered by the government for policy advice should be transparent regarding the interests of the researchers
- An independent new government agency to uphold the above rules
Study on glyphosate
Just how unclear the influence of lobbyists is on government was exemplified by the study on the glyphosate lobby in the Netherlands that was presented at the launch. The study focused on the position taken by the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, who changed position multiple times over a period of 6 months. The Minister went from in favour of reauthorization of glyphosate in the EU to against reauthorization, going back and forth until finally opting for in favour in 2018.
The researchers argue that without meaningful disclosure, such as the inclusion of a legislative footprint, scrutiny of the scientific studies that were used to base the government decision on and the influence of lobbyists will remain unclear.
At the start of 2017, Parliament discussed long-overdue initiatives for lobby transparency. Across the board, MPs were very frustrated with the lack of initiative from the side of the government. With elections in March however, Parliament was in no position to demand meaningful new rules. For now, it seems like a hot potato is being passed and new rules will have to be dealt with by the incoming Parliament and government. Lobbywatch NL is ready to campaign the next Parliament and government for strong and mandatory rules for lobbyists.
Members and contact
Lobbywatch Netherlands (Lobbywatch NL) consists of Transparency International NL (TI-NL), Transnational Institute (TNI), The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth NL), foodwatch Netherlands, Greenpeace Netherlands and Meer Democratie (More Democracy). It can be contacted through: email@example.com