The Dutch government

The Dutch government

The Dutch government is a parliamentary democracy, which according to the constitution of the Netherlands consists of the King (or Queen) as the head of state and the Council of Ministers.

Structure of the Dutch government

The basis of the structure of the Dutch government is the Council of Ministers that includes the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Cabinet ministers. While most ministers head government ministries, the government of the Netherlands may appoint ministers without portfolios. The monarch’s role is limited to the formation of the government.

The Dutch Parliament

The Dutch Parliament, known as the Staten-Generaal der Nederlanden or the States-General of the Netherlands, consists of two houses:

  • the Eerste Kamer (Senate)
  • the Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives)

The States-General meets in joint session normally once a year, at the opening of the parliamentary year, when the King gives his Speech from the Throne on Prince's Day. The rest of the time they meet separately. The houses of Parliament are at the Binnenhof in The Hague.

There are 75 seats in the Senate and 150 in the House of Representatives. Dutch elections are held every four years under a system of proportional representation.

The Dutch constitution

The basic structure of the government is set down in the Dutch Grondwet (Constitution), which also covers citizens’ rights and the Dutch government’s duties to citizens. The Constitution is the Netherlands' most important state document and its highest law. It dates from 1814, when the monarchy was inaugurated. The current version of the Constitution dates from 1983. The Constitution is, however, subordinate to the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which regulates the constitutional relationship between the different states of the Kingdom, i.e. the Netherlands, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and Aruba.

Other levels of Dutch government

There are three other levels of government in the Netherlands, governing the provinces, municipalities and the water.

Dutch provincial governments

Each of the Netherlands’ 12 provinces has its own regional government, with executive power in the hands of the King’s Commissioner (or governor) and the College of the Gedeuteerde Staten. The King’s Commissioner is appointed by Cabinet and is responsible to the province’s States Provincial (provincial legislature). The legislature is directly elected by the province.

Dutch municipalities

As of January 1, 2023, there are 342 gemeenten (municipalities) in the Netherlands, also known as local governments. The Dutch municipalities are governed by the College of Mayor and Aldermen, and each municipality’s mayor is appointed by Cabinet. The Aldermen are appointed by the Municipal Council, which is elected by the municipality.

Water boards

Lastly, there are also water boards, which are responsible for the country's polders, dikes and other waterworks. These boards are also directly elected and have the power to tax their residents.

Dutch government ministries

There are 12 Dutch ministries. Each ministry has at least one minister, although many have two, and some also have a State Secretary.

Ministry of General Affairs

The Ministry of General Affairs (Ministerie van Algemene Zaken) is the ministry of the Prime Minister, who is also the Minister of General Affairs. It coordinates Dutch government policy and communications and all matters that are not expressly dealt with by other ministries.

Ministry of Finance

The Ministry of Finance (Ministerie van Financiën) oversees government spending, the financial system and the quality of financial institutions. Also responsible for tax legislation and through the Dutch Tax Administration, which is part of the ministry, levies and collects taxes in the Netherlands.

Ministry of Justice & Security

The Ministry of Justice and Security (Ministerie van Justitie en Veiligheid) is responsible for justice and public safety in the Netherlands, with policy areas including legislation, crime prevention, child protection, law enforcement, administration of justice and legal aid, victim support, immigration regulation and counter-terrorism.

Ministry of Health, Welfare & Sport

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (Ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport) is responsible for public health and healthcare, welfare and social-cultural work and sports in the Netherlands.

Ministry of Social Affairs & Employment

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid) is responsible for labour market policy, including migration and the free movement of workers, benefits and re-integration, income policy, work-life balance, and policy on working conditions and inspection in the Netherlands.

Ministry of Education, Culture & Science

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap) is responsible for education (kindergarten, primary, secondary, vocational training and higher education); culture, arts and public broadcasting; and science and innovation in the Netherlands.

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy (Ministerie van Economische Zaken en Klimaat) is responsible for economics, industry, mining, trade, energy policy, agriculture, fishery and tourism in the Netherlands.

Ministry of Infrastructure & Water Management

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Waterstaat) is responsible for Dutch roads, railways, waterways and airways, effective water management to protect against flooding, and improving air and water quality, and environmental policy.

Ministry of the Interior & Kingdom Relations

The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties) is responsible for Home Affairs, the civil service, the intelligence services and relations with the other countries in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken) promotes the interests of the Netherlands abroad by coordinating and carrying out Dutch foreign policy at its headquarters in The Hague and through its foreign missions. It is also the channel through which the Dutch Government communicates with foreign governments and international organisations.

Ministry of Defence

The Ministry of Defence (Ministerie van Defensie) comprises the ministry itself (Central Staff), the four armed forces (the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Royal Netherlands Army, the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Royal Military and Border Police), Support Command and the Defence Materiel Organisation.

Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality

The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (Ministerie van Landbouw, Natuur en Voedselkwaliteit) stands for fair and responsible agriculture and fisheries. It also stimulates the vitalisation of the rural regions in the Netherlands. 

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