‘The Netherlands must put more effort into European defence’

The Netherlands must focus much more on the European defence and security policy. The Dutch government should link up with German-French initiatives ‘as much as possible’. At the moment, NATO is still the cornerstone of Dutch defence policy.

This is what the Dutch Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) writes in a document drawn up at the request of the House of Representatives. Europe has become vulnerable and it is therefore necessary for the Netherlands to review its own position, the AIV believes.

According to the Advisory Council, the government would do well to support the French-German proposal for the establishment of a European Security Council. The Netherlands should also support the idea of a European military headquarters.

Europe should also focus on task specialisation. This is necessary in order to improve efficiency. Better agreements must be made within the EU on the purchase of military equipment, and it is still needed to spend more money on the military.

If the Netherlands wants to maintain its influence on European defence and security policy, ‘it is time for new steps’, concludes the AIV. The council says this is necessary because of new threats to Europe, the British leaving the EU and changing relations with the United States.

‘Europe will have to be able to deal independently with security issues in which NATO is not taking action or in which the US has no direct interest,’ according to AIV member Joris Voorhoeve. The relationship between NATO and the EU must be looked at ‘pragmatically’.

More collaboration, but no European army

For the cabinet, NATO remains the foundation of defence policy. However, it does support more European cooperation in the military field. A European army is emphatically rejected. There is no support for this in the House of Representatives.

In a debate about upcoming navy investment projects on 25 June, State Secretary of Defence Barbara Visser also said the ministry is looking at more European collaboration. For the new mine hunters and M frigates the Netherlands is already working together with Belgium. In the future, she hopes the Netherlands can cooperate with Germany on the replacement of the current air-defence and command frigates (LCF).

However, she also said that ‘international cooperation only works if the needs of the different countries fall within the same period of time. Only then can you jointly set requirements.’

In his article for SWZ|Maritime, Jeroen de Jonge, Business Director Naval Programs at TNO, pointed out that the current cooperations will ‘be too small in the future’ and that ‘the Netherlands must have a strategic plan for its naval construction’ or it would be crushed by the much larger defence industries of Germany and France. Whereas he advocated a ‘North European alliance of family businesses’, being the naval construction industries of the Netherlands and Germany, to counterbalance ‘the state-driven joint venture from the South’ (France), the AIV now recommends a broader European approach.

The Advisory Council expects a breakthrough in European defence policy in the coming years. This will have to become concrete during the EU presidencies of Germany in the second half of this year and France in 2022.

Source: ANP (with additions)

Picture: The Dutch State Secretary hopes to be able to cooperate with Germany for the replacement of the LCFs. This is the LCF HNLMS Evertsen (by Ministry of Defence).

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.