If EU-students work at least 32 hours a month in the Netherlands, they can apply for studyfinancing. However, the former State Secretary Zijlstra proposed to change Dutch law and thus, this criteria by raising the required amount of work hours to 56 hours per month, reports Nuffic.

Objection of The Council of State

The Council of State does not agree with Zijlstra on this proposal to increase the work hour norms for EU-students in order to be eligible to the monthly study financing payment. Their argument is based on the fact that Zijlstra’s proposal contradicts European laws regarding the definition of an employee. In every member state, European law trumps national law. Therefore, the Council of State argues that Zijlstra has to obey the definitions of the European Court of Justice regarding employees and their required amount of work hours.

Withdrawal proposal

The European Court of Justice determines that individual member states cannot give their own interpretation to the term employee. The European Court of Justice also defined employees as people who work just 40 hours a month. The Council of State therefore argues that this is in contradiction to Zijlstra’s proposal. In addition, European law also defines an ‘employee’ as anyone with a contract of 3 or more hours a week. This means, that if an individual works no more than 12 hours a month, it is considered an employee according to the European Court of Justice. Since Zijlstra cannot propose changes in Dutch law, because they contradict European law, he decided to withdraw this part of his proposal.

Increase still possible

Zijlstra believes that the increase from 32 to 56 hours a month is necessary. The relatively low standard of only 32 hours a month has led to an increase in government spending on study financing for EU-students from 6 million in 2006 to 26 million in 2011. Interestingly, even though Zijlstra withdrew his proposal he does not actually need to change the regulation of work hours in the law. This can be done through policy-making. Zijlstra promised The Council of State to pay attention to their arguments in his future steps towards this policy change. Since of today there is a new cabinet, so a new minster will finalize the proposal. NdB.