Council of State: government must make tougher choices, not everything is possible

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Council of State
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The government’s decisiveness is under pressure and the government and parliament must make sharper choices. This requires rethinking. That is the essence of the Council of State’s report on last year.

“Not everything is possible and certainly not at the same time,” says Vice President Thom de Graaf. He emphasizes that the government should not promise more than can be delivered. In his view, a lack of clout undermines belief in what the government can do.

“Trust in the government is the foundation of our democratic constitutional state and if that trust frays, then the rule of law will also fray”, warns the Council, the most important adviser to the government and parliament.

Difficult interaction

The Council of State cites as ‘red threads’ that negatively influence the government’s decisiveness: complex rules, problems in implementation, increased need for customization and compensation, insufficiently clear choices and difficult interaction between governments. “Moreover, it does not get any easier to perform government tasks adequately if there are shortages in all parts of the labor market,” the annual report states.

The Council analyzes five themes that are characteristic of the “complex task facing the government”: living environment, youth care, asylum, benefits and justice.

Involve judges

De Graaf advises to say no more often to social desires if the government cannot fulfill them: “Prioritizing takes courage, from both members of parliament and administrators.”

He also recommends involving implementing organizations more often in a ‘meaningful’ way when considering whether a wish can actually be implemented. “That should not be an item on a checklist; more goes wrong in the implementation of government policy than is desirable”.

According to the Council, judges could also play a role in this: “Judges do not make laws, but their knowledge of and experience with how laws work in practice can be fed back more systematically to government and parliament.”

Role for local authorities

The annual report also states that laws should be as simple as possible. They must not become illegible, unworkable and unfeasible due to an accumulation of wishes and adjustments.

The Council also wants to prevent policy from being devised centrally without considering the role of decentralized authorities: “National policy in areas such as space, climate, nitrogen, housing or asylum is not a solo exercise. Ultimately, young people, home seekers and asylum seekers are the municipality at the counter.”

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