Integration plan hits new equality snag
25 August 2006
AMSTERDAM Green left party GroenLinks has called on Immigration and Naturalisation Minister Rita Verdonk to respond to a report the country's highest administrative court has shot down one of the main planks of her integration legislation.
The Council of State (Raad van State in Dutch) has advised the minister that holders of a Dutch passport, regardless of their employment status, cannot be compelled to follow an integration course. Broadcaster RTL Nieuws said the report is still confidential but it has obtained a copy.
Verdonk's new integration legislation, which is supposed to come into force on 1 January, would oblige newcomers and certain categories of naturalised
citizens to pass an exam on Dutch language and culture.
The minister has been working on the legislation one of the coalition government's cornerstone policies for three years. She has had to adapt it several times following criticism from MPs.
She has already been forced to scale back her plans following earlier advice from the Council of State that it would be discriminatory to make naturalised citizens undergo the integration process.
Her compromise proposal, focusing on naturalised citizens who are on welfare as well as educators and clerics, has also now been rejected by the Council of State, RTL said. This could mean only half of the estimated 500,000 people Verdonk wanted to take the exam will have to do so.
GroenLinks said the Council of State's advice should come as no surprise and it has called on the minister to appear before parliament next Tuesday to explain how she plans to proceed.