Bad laws, few checks are to blame for anti-govt court cases


The government itself is largely to blame for the number of court cases it has faced in recent years, a leading government advisory body said on Wednesday.

The Council for the Environment and Infrastructure said poor law-making and a lack of proper monitoring and enforcement are behind most of the cases in which the state has been taken to court by campaign groups.

The council has drawn up the report in the wake of several high-profile cases which environmental campaigners have won against the government, including the Urgenda ruling and others focusing on Schiphol airport.

“Our analysis shows that lawmakers regularly avoid making difficult decisions about the environment and scarce space,” the council says. “The room offered in EU law is stretched to the maximum so that as few limits as possible are placed on economic activities. In reaction, interest groups are increasingly resorting to the courts.”

Another important cause is the lack of enforcement at a regional and city level, the council said. “It could be that there is a lack of political will to take action.”

The council recommends that the new government strengthen ministries’ legal departments to ensure new legislation can withstand legal checks, and opt for a “robust” implementation of EU laws rather than a minimum. Capacity at inspectorates should also be beefed up.

A majority of the new look lower house of parliament want to tighten the rules allowing campaign groups and charities to take action against the government and the idea is included in the new right-wing government’s coalition agreement.

Supporters of new restrictions argue that campaign groups are not properly representative of the population as a whole. They also argue that judges are overruling decisions taken by democratically-elected politicians.

“We control the cabinet, not groups like Urgenda which are sponsored and subsidised by the Postcode Lottery,” Chris Stoffer, leader of the fundamentalist Protestant group SGP, said last year.

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