The current administrative structure of the Netherlands consists of three levels: central government, provinces and municipalities. The administrative set-up of the Dutch nation state has been rather stable since 1830 and changes to the territorial structure of the provinces have been marginal (as opposed to the municipal level where restructuring and merging has been a constant). Currently there are 12 provinces in the Netherlands.
The tasks and competencies of the provinces are laid down in the Dutch Constitution and in the law on provinces (the “Provinciewet”, which originates from 1850). Rules regarding provincial finances and the financial relations between the various levels of government are laid down in the “Financiële-verhoudingswet” (originating from 1897).
The Dutch provinces have tasks in many fields. Competencies in these fields are often shared with the central government and with the municipalities (and increasingly with the EU). The report analyses the fields where the provinces are considered to be a very important and in some cases the primary public actor: spatial planning, infrastructure and transport, nature conservation and environmental policies, regional economic development, regional culture and conservation of monuments, ( financial) supervision of municipalities and water boards, and rural development.
It is important to note that in the Netherlands in 2015 a large decentralization operation (“Decentralisaties social domein”) was put in motion, by which many tasks in the domain of health and social affairs, especially regarding youth care, have been shifted from the central government and provincial levels to the level of municipalities.
The members of the provincial assemblies (“Provinciale Staten”: Provincial Council) are directly elected every 4 years by the residents of their province. The parties that compete for their votes are mainly national parties, but over the last 15 years, we have seen an increase (both at the level of provinces and of municipalities) in participation by regional and local parties. The head of the province is the Commissioner of the King, who is nominated by the central government and appointed by the King. The Commissioner presides over both the Provincial Council and the Provincial Executive.
Although reform of the regional level is discussed on a regular basis, actual reform is rather limited. In 2012, the current government (Rutte-II, a liberal-socialist coalition) proposed to create 5-7 larger regions (“landsdelen”) to replace the current 12 provinces, starting with the merger of Noord-Holland, Utrecht and Flevoland into the “Noordvleugel”-province (the northern part of the Randstad). The provinces concerned were against this idea and mobilized support from the Dutch Senate. As a result, the legislative process to bring about the merger was shelved in 2014. Shortly after that, the government decided to abandon the idea of provincial mergers altogether.
by Nico Groenendijk
The Report on the state of Regionalisation in Europe.
More than 40 experts contributed to this work, by delivering detailed reports about the state of regionalisation and multilevel governance in chosen European countries. The study covers 41 countries, and each country report is based on a similar structure, thereby allowing a comparative approach among all studied countries.
- The first part of the report gives the political impetus from the main European stakeholders
- The second part of this report entails a summarised version of the country reports. The objective is to provide interested readers with a short overview of the main features of regionalisation in various European countries. The complete versions of the country reports are available on the AER website, under LINK
- The third part provides a thematic approach based on the main findings delivered by the country reports and the current state of regionalisation in Europe. The trends and outlooks lead to open questions on the future of the regions in the European landscape, and more broadly on the role of subnational authorities in the shaping of the continent.
- The fourth part gives the floor to the actual regional decision-makers in Europe, across a series of interviews and statements by Presidents, Vice-Presidents and elected representatives of the European regions.
Over the next months, we will be focusing on a different European country’s approach to regionalisation. During these months, look out for #RoR2017 on Twitter and/or Facebook and follow us at @europeanregions.
Strong European regions are a pathway to a stronger Europe.