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The information contained on this page represents the situation as of 1 January 2013 and is a summary of the country report produced by the country expert from the network. The summary can be downloaded here as well.

Rikki Holtmaat

Country context

The Kingdom of the Netherlands has the highest population density in the European Union. Immigrants predominantly come from Turkey, Morocco, the Dutch Antilles (although, admittedly, people from the Dutch Antilles cannot really be described as ‘immigrants’) Suriname and Indonesia. The main religions are Roman Catholic 27%, Protestant 16,6%, Muslim 5.7%, other 2.3%, none 48,4% (2006).[1]

Main principles and definitions

The Dutch Equal Treatment Laws (GETA, DDA and ADA) cover the grounds mentioned in Article 19 TFEU and some other grounds, like nationality and marital status. In contrast to any other realm of Dutch anti-discrimination law and in contrast to EU law, these Acts are centred on the concept of distinction (“onderscheid”) instead of discrimination (“discriminatie”).

Enforcing the law

Neither the GETA, nor the DDA or ADA contains compulsory judicial procedures. Normal civil or administrative procedures can be used to enforce the equal treatment standards. All of these procedures lead to a legally binding decision. In practice, the equality norm is in most cases enforced through a special low threshold procedure before the NIHR. The NIHR has taken over all of the tasks of the previous Equal Treatment Commission (ETC), but the role of the new body as regards investigating complaints about unequal treatment has not been changed as compared to the ETC.

Main legislation

International law:The Constitution bars the Dutch Supreme Court from exercising Constitutional review of formal statutory acts. However, the Netherlands adheres to a ‘monist theory’ of international law. This means that the Dutch courts can apply international standards of equal treatment and non-discrimination directly also when it concerns statutory acts.

Material scope

The GETA applies to the areas of employment and occupation, provision of goods and services (including education) and, only in the context of racial discrimination, the areas of social security, social protection, and healthcare. All guarantees flowing from the Directives also apply in the area of the provision of goods and services. The DDA applies to employment, professional education, housing and primary and secondary education. In addition, the Act also applies to the area of public transport, after Articles 7 and 8 of the DDA finally entered into forcein May2012. The ADA is most limited in its material scope: it only applies to employment and employment related education. 

Equality bodies

The NIHR is the main officially designated equality body (on the basis of article 13 of the Directive 2000/43/EC). It is a tribunal type of equality body and its main tasks is to hear complaints about discrimination and to give legal opinions about them. Its mandate further covers conducting surveys and issuing reports and recommendations. Just like the ETC, the NIHR does not cover the task of assisting victims of discrimination. This function is carried out by “Art. 1” and the ADVs (see below), as it is considered in the Netherlands to be contradictory to the main task of the equality body, which is to hear and investigate cases of (alleged) discriminatory practices or behaviours. This latter task takes most of the time and resources of the NIHR. 

Go to the European Commission - Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities This initiative is financed by the EC Programme Progress. But the views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect the official views of the EU institutions.