Minister Koenders' shot at the Swiss Treaty deflects in own goal
prof. Joseph Fleuren: "Explanation of new interpretation is untruthful and misleading"This week Mr Joseph Fleuren, associate professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Nijmegen and an authority on self-executing treaty provisions, has published a memorandum about the recent administrative developments around the Dutch-Swiss Friendship treaty, that also concerns the position of Japanese citizens.
In a well elaborated review of the correspondence of the Dutch and Swiss government, Mr Fleuren firstly remarks that the recent "interpretation" of provision 1 of the Swiss Treaty clearly deviates from the text of the provision itself. Referring to the additional protocol of 1877 that later was agreed by the parties, the professor points out that there can be no doubt about the original intentions and actual effects of the provision towards the citizens of the member states on each others territory. The new "interpretation" of the same provision is clearly an impediment on the earlier granted rights towards citizens and cannot be seen as only a declarative note.
"The purpose of the Dutch Minister was only to terminate the effect of the treaty in the Netherlands"Although support for Minister Koender's reading can be found in earlier rulings of the Swiss Federal Court concerning the effectiveness of treaties closed before the first world war, Mr Fleuren stresses that Dutch case law did not neutralize the provision, when it involves the access of Swiss citizens to Dutch territory and labour market. Furthermore, he notes that the Dutch government took the initiative for the recent addendum, and that there can be no misunderstanding that the purpose of the correspondence was only to terminate the actual law practice in the Netherlands. Hence, he concludes: "Under those circumstances, to qualify the addendum as an 'interpretative explanation' is untruthful and misleading."
Consequently, Mr Fleuren qualifies the published addendum of the Swiss and Dutch government as an agreement to amend the treaty. He then elaborates on the options how judges need to evaluate this change of law in new cases.
The first way, is to consider the addendum as a regular treaty, although it was not approved (yet) by the Dutch parliament. Following article 19 of the Act on Approval and Proclamation of Treaties it will come into effect on 1 August 2016 if the approval of the parliament was given or if the judge finds a valid legal argument to neglect that lacking consent.
The new agreement between Holland and Switzerland cannot be effected before 1 August 2016, íf it will be approvedAnother direction the judge can head for, is to qualify the addendum as a non binding interpretation of the treaty by the member states that can be countered by other legal arguments. However, it will be challenging to adapt the new reading in present jurisprudence, especially since article 31 of the Vienna convention of the law of treaties is not exactly paving the way for Minister Koenders here.
Last but not least, Mr Fleuren refers to another antique treaty that has not been put in the front line yet, but may well be capable of copying the same effects of the Swiss Treaty towards the position of Japanese citizens. It is the Friendship treaty between Holland and Italy, even 12 years older than that with the Swiss.
That last remark of Mr Fleuren has an ironical touch to it. The goal of the secret work of Minister Koenders and his colleagues on the departments of Justice and Employment was to annihilate the effect of the Swiss treaty towards third country citizens, like the Japanese. However they underestimate the solidness of the legal heritage of our forefathers and they demonstrate a lack of research and understanding of the broad scoop of international public law.
Above all, Minister Koenders is provoking the other powers in the trias politica by ignoring the Dutch constitution - also a fine example of legal craftsmanship from the 19th century. Yesterday, a member of parliament, Steven van Weyenberg, has posed the Minister of Employment some critical questions about the reintroduction of the work permit requirement towards the employers of Japanese.
The blind shot of Bert Koenders at the Swiss treaty may well end up between his own goal posts. The Holland tournament is not over for the Japanese; the next match has just begun...
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