Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert ()
BRUSSELS — Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert has strongly urged greater EU cooperation in capability development to address the bloc’s military shortfalls in the run-up to a December summit of EU leaders.
Addressing members in the European Parliament’s Security and Defence Committee Nov. 5, she said that a report by Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, “rightly states that member states should share their capability plans,” which “also means breaking new ground with respect to planning, acquisition, training and logistical support. It means that we must align our collective requirements and national priorities.
“If we are serious about preventing further gaps in essential military capabilities in Europe, we should end the current practice of making military investments in splendid national isolation,” she warned.
She went on to stress how important it is that EU countries “commit themselves to the delivery of key capabilities through major cooperative projects” while remaining “fully interoperable with European allies and partners but also with the US.”
She said cooperation in smaller groups will yield faster results than initiatives involving all 28 EU member states.
“The good thing is that the capabilities developed in smaller groups can be used at the European level and can inspire other EU member states to undertake similar initiatives. The cooperation achieved by smaller groups could also be opened up to other EU member states at a later stage.”
Citing Belgian-Dutch naval cooperation, a Dutch-German army corps with a permanent headquarters and a UK-Dutch amphibious force as examples of EU cooperation, she said she had also recently signed a letter of intent with Belgium on integrated air policing.
On Oct. 23, Hennis-Plasschaert and Belgium Defense Minister Pieter de Crem signed the letter detailing the joint surveillance of the Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) airspace using fighter aircraft. The ministers will now draw up a formal cooperation agreement in the short term.
Making the case for EU military cooperation to achieve economies of scale and to boost the bloc’s military effectiveness, she said “this is not a prelude to a European army nor a NATO army. Member states or combinations of member states will have to provide Europe with the military means to act”.
In conclusion, she pointed out that “our armed forces are well aware that there is a strong case for greater European cooperation in the field of security and defense,” and understand the need for Europe to become a credible provider of security in its immediate region and beyond.”
But “it is at the political level that we find obstacles to closer cooperation.”
She also said that European involvement in conflict regions “serves not only to curb terrorism but also to secure our trading routes as well as access to raw materials that are vital to our industry.” She stressed that Europe “must carry” its “share of the burden, including the risks. This would also send a clear signal to the United States, our indispensable partner in European security for over 65 years.”