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Wim Voermans on coronavirus policy of Dutch Government

Due to the absence of a finalised ‘corona act’, the Dutch Government will only be able to make use of emergency regulations should there be a new coronavirus wave. In May 2020, the Dutch Council of State wrote that, strictly speaking, the emergency regulations did not meet the constitutional requirements for measures that restrict fundamental rights.

Wim Voermans

During the ‘acute, immediate, and life threatening initial phase’, this was justifiable, but ‘as the situation progresses, the legal shelf life of the emergency decrees is diminishing.’

‘Ultimately, what the Council of State is saying is: once, but never again,’ said Wim Voermans, Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law, to Dutch newspaper NRC. ‘It is definitely not inconceivable that courts confronted with fines will say: this is unconstitutional.’

Why is it taking so long for the ‘corona act’ to be finalised? At the beginning of September, an amendment to the act was sent the Dutch House of Representatives. They have only just begun discussing it. A roundtable discussion with experts was postponed because not everyone could attend.

Voermans: ‘If it was absolutely necessary, they could process it within a week. Under great pressure everything becomes fluid.’ The House of Representatives is lacking urgency. What is more, it is in the interest of certain parties to postpone the proposal. Parties such as the VVD and FVD do not want new measures. Every month without a ‘corona act’ is a plus. And it is in the interest of parties that do actually want a corona act to wait until there is a real need for measures. That would increase the likelihood that critics would be willing to swallow their criticism.

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