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End of the evacuation exercise (NEO) in the Netherlands

(B2) … A conflict breaks out inside Den Helder – a fictional country but a real region in the Netherlands. Neighboring countries or other countries have not planned interventions, but are ready to support Belgium by functioning as a base of operations for the troops who are to execute the NEO mission (*). 160 people, mainly family members of Belgian soldiers and Dutch students, must therefore be evacuated as quickly as possible... Here is the (fictitious) scenario which served as the basis for the intervention of nearly 1200 Belgian and Dutch soldiers, during the “Crazy Trip” exercise which has just ended, in the north of the Netherlands around Leeuwarden and Den Helder. The opportunity for Belgian soldiers, above all, from the four components (land, air, navy, medical) to put their knowledge into practice. On the menu: amphibious landing, assault landing, parachuting of personnel and equipment and medical evacuation.

Medevac © Sophie Petijean

An exercise that is not theory. The exercise which has just ended (it took place from May 7 to 15) allowed the Belgian soldiers to perfect their devices. “ It is a very Belgian-Belgian operation. We want to be sure that if necessary, we can evacuate an area alone, explained the Belgian Lieutenant Erik Eenaerts. But in absolute terms, this could undoubtedly lead to cooperation with the European Union or even with NATO.. » But with the Belgian presidency of the Union approaching (in 2010), this exercise is not useless at the political level either. He reminds us that although the 27 were unable to agree last December on the advisability of a European concept for the evacuation of citizens established in a third country, the question remains relevant. Quite simply because the risk remains.
It is enough to remember three recent examples…

Three major evacuations in almost a year. In Chad, in February 2007, after the rebel attack on N'Djamena an operational military presence (with patrols and means of land evacuation) was required (and this is only because one country - France in 'occurrence – had troops prepositioned in the country, and controlled the airport, that the situation was controllable and did not get out of hand). In Georgia, in August 2008, during the conflict with Russia, military means were required
but only as an element of logistical support for the evacuation (as well as intelligence); but each country, more or less, carried out its evacuation operations in isolation. What was not
not very effective (the French were repatriated by plane while the Germans or Dutch took longer land routes). As for the example of Bombay, in November 2007,
the presence of the military was not necessary either from a security point of view (the Indian forces were sufficient) or from a logistical point of view (civilian planes could land) but
the absence of European coordination was patent, a “real souk” even denounced some MEPs. Read
the bombay lesson.

Comments : If we can therefore understand the reluctance of certain States to develop a new system replacing the national systems, we do however have difficulties in
understand how a coordination of resources would not be beneficial, both in terms of efficiency (speed of intervention), economy and service provided to citizens.

(*)A NEO is a military operation to evacuate citizens (nationals, Europeans or third countries) under threat to a zone without
risk in anticipation of eventual repatriation.

(Belgian army source)


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).