The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg are to step up their cooperation in the area of Defence. To this end, the Ministers of Defence of the Netherlands and Belgium, Hans Hillen and Pieter de Crem, and the Minister of the Interior of Luxembourg, Jean-Marie Halsdorf, signed an agreement in Brussels on 18 April.
The agreement is to the effect that the countries’ armed forces will train and exercise together more frequently, that their air forces will make use of each other’s airfields, that the Belgian and Dutch navies will intensify their combined operations, and that Belgium’s paratroopers and the Netherlands’ Airmobile Brigade will cooperate more intensively. Minister Hillen is aware that the nations will be relinquishing part of their control over their own armed forces. “Cooperation comes at a price”, stated the Minister.
In Minister Hillen’s opinion, the agreement can serve as an example to other countries. As he sees it, European nations could do a lot more by cooperating without giving up their own nationalities. “Nowadays, no country can defend itself on its own and that is why we must seek cooperation. In these times of forced cutbacks, this kind of cooperation is a good way of ensuring one’s striking power”, he explained. His Belgian counterpart De Crem agreed: “We are heading towards a completely new structure, with tri-national command. This is a first step towards full integration of materiel and towards joint deployability.”