Prince’s Day in the Netherlands
Budget Day (Prinsjesdag, or Prince's Day) is held every year on the third Tuesday of September, which is also known as "the festival of democracy". It is an important day in Dutch politics as it represents the beginning of the new parliamentary year, whereby His Majesty the King Willem-Alexander delivers the Speech from the Throne.
The King’s speech outlines the government’s most important plans for the coming year, as well as the presentation of the budgets for the various ministries. The ceremony includes the traditional handing over of the National Budget and the Budget Memorandum – which are contained in a special briefcase presented by the Minister of Finance – a practice that has been in place since 1947. Following this, the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives have the opportunity to respond to the government’s plans the next day.
The Dutch parliamentary year starts on the third Tuesday in September.
On this day – known as Prince’s Day – the King and Queen travel in the Glass Coach to the Hall of Knights in The Hague.
Assembled there are the ministers, state secretaries, members of the Senate and House of Representatives, and distinguished guests.
Together, the Senate and the House of Representatives make up the States General.
The King opens the new parliamentary session of the States General by reading the Speech from the Throne.
In this official address, the King outlines the government’s plans for the coming year.
And then there is the ceremonial briefcase.
On Prince’s Day, the Minister takes the briefcase to the House of Representatives and presents the National Budget and Budget Memorandum.
The National Budget comprises the individual budgets of all ministries.
In essence, they are bills that must still pass through parliament.
In the briefcase, we can also find the Budget Memorandum which gives additional information about the budget.
In the Memorandum, the government unfolds its plans and provides the anticipated revenue and expenditure.
Revenue mainly comes from taxes and social insurance contributions,
but also other sources such as the sale of natural gas.
On the expenditure side, the government indicates how much it plans to spend, for instance on education, social security, health care and security.
It also comments on the national and international economic situation and gives an indications of the Dutch financial situation.
After Prince’s Day, it is the turn of the House of Representatives to respond to the government’s plans.
All the ministers and state secretaries assemble for the Parliamentary Debate on the Speech from the Throne,
which broadly discusses the government’s policy for the coming year.
The Prime Minister speaks on behalf of the government during the debate.
In October, the parliament debates financial aspects of the budget.
The Minister of Finance discusses the Budget Memorandum and budgetary policy.
In the following months, the budget of all government ministries are individually studied and discussed.
Once the members of parliament have given their consent, the plans can be put into practice.
The parliament’s authority to agree upon the budget comprises one of the most fundamental elements of Dutch democracy. In order to properly exercise this right, freedom of expression and unrestricted access to information are indispensable. A free press and an active civil society play an essential role in this.
Access to information
According to the Dutch Freedom of Information Act, everyone has the right to obtain information concerning the decisions and activities of the public authorities. This right is widely recognized around the world as a fundamental human right. The right to access information in records under the control of government institutions is an important tool for promoting the rule of law, fighting corruption and safeguarding other rights. Access to information is important because it can serve to prevent abuses of power, as well as corruption. Furthermore, access to information enables citizens to hold their governments to account when it comes to such matters as the management of public finances.
The Netherlands is committed to improving access to information abroad. The Netherlands initiated a UN Human Rights Council resolution, which aims to guarantee worldwide access to information rights. This resolution, which was supported by Canada, Brazil, Fiji, Namibia and Sweden, was adopted by the Council in June 2020.
Program of Prince’s Day 2020
In normal times, without COVID-19, several ‘celebration of democracy’ festivals would take place, in the lead up to Prince’s Day. His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen would travel in the Royal Dutch Carriage, or ‘Glass Coach,’ to the Hall of Knights in The Hague, where the King typically delivers the Speech from the Throne. However, due to the pandemic, the festivals and the tour in the Glass Coach have been canceled. The King will read the Speech from the Throne in the Grote Kerk in The Hague. This will be televised and can be watched via NOS (Netherlands Broadcasting Company) in Dutch.
Find out more
For general information about Prince’s Day, or the budget process in the Netherlands, please visit government.nl.