Montesquieu Instituut: van wetenschap naar samenleving

Symposium: Parliamentary control over top secret matters

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On November 22th, Montesquieu Institute Maastricht organised a symposium on parliamentary control in the Benelux countries.


Parliamentary control over top secret matters: Theory and practice in the Benelux-countries

In modern times states cannot afford to be so naive as to think they do not need intelligence agencies. And if the PRISM affair has taught us anything, it is that secret services are, in fact, all around us. 

That being said, there is an inherent tension between the concept of public administration and that of secret services. Intelligence agencies can be highly powerful and influential. They can use means of research, which are usually not available to regular investigation officers. Moreover, on the basis of reports by intelligence agencies far reaching decisions are made, such as: is the level of terrorist threats so high that our privacy should be infringed? Or, should we launch a military mission? 

In this symposium a general introduction will be given on the matter of democratic scrutiny of top secret matters. The perspective is that of smaller countries with a political and constitutional framework that is comparable to that of the Netherlands. From this perspective, special attention will be given to the question how parliaments can deal with intelligence that was gathered by secret services of other, larger states. If it is already difficult to scrutinize one’s own intelligence agencies, how should we deal with information of which the source cannot always be traced back?

This symposium will approach the topic of parliamentary control and intelligence agencies from a comparative perspective. Focusing on the three Benelux-countries, the question of parliament´s role will be addressed from both a legal and a political point of view. The focus on the Benelux-countries provides an opportunity to take an in-depth look at the way parliamentary control over intelligence agencies is organised in smaller countries with a relatively similar constitutional structure. Do they encounter the same problems? And if so, which solutions seem to work best and can we learn from each other. Among the speakers are  scholars in the fields of law and political science as well as former members of parliament.   



Learn more about the programme (PDF).


More information

For more information please visit the website of Montesquieu Institute Maastricht.

This sympsosium is supported by the Province of Limburg

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