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Ursula and Jeanine on a boat

The signing of the letter of intent (© NGV / B2)
The signing of the letter of intent (© NGV / B2)

(B2 in Amsterdam) That's it. It's signed! The two German and Dutch Defense Ministers, Ursula von der Leyen and Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, put their initials this morning on their maritime cooperation project aboard the Dutch support ship Karel Doorman. What is for the moment only a letter of intent will allow, when it will be ratified by the two parliaments, by 2018 the use by the Germans of the amphibious support ship and the integration of the navy troops Germans in the Dutchbat.

The strength of mutual trust

« Germany and the Netherlands show how forces can be integrated in Europe commented the German minister who spoke in the shadow of two Leopard 2A6 tanks. " Our agreement demonstrates the strength of our partnership. But it also shows the great mutual trust. Germans and Dutch will live, work, train together and thus merge into a single entity »

A combination of maritime means

The German Navy will in fact be able to use the full capacity of the Karel Doorman from 2018. On the other hand, the 800 men (and women) of the German maritime battalion in Eckernförde, which specializes in the protection of ships and evacuations, will be integrated into the Dutch Navy. " We are innovating in terms of the integration of armed forces in Europe. » (also read:  German-Dutch maritime rapprochement).

Reciprocal advantages to open to others

This partnership offers significant benefits to our countries — added Jeannine Hennis-Plasschaert —. We increase the capacity to deploy, share knowledge and increase our impact. I think we can collaborate with other partners in the future in this field ". A call from the foot to the Belgians in particular (with whom the Dutch shared part of their navy) but also from the Danes.

A multinational armored division in 2021

The two countries had already announced the creation of a common land unit. They continue today by the navy. And they don't plan to stop there. " Our goal is much bigger confirmed Ursula von der Leyen. " We want to set up a multinational armored division next year. "The objective is to achieve a unit that can go " up to 20.000 troops ", which should be operational " in 2021. She added.

Towards a European Defense Union

It's a " excellent example of the construction of a European Defense Union she added knowingly using certain terms, indicating that far from the theory Berlin and The Hague intend to show an example that can be joined by others. " We want the EU to be more efficient » she underlines. Certainly there are situations "where we need the armed forces", she concluded. Corn " stabilization, the process of reconciliation and economic reconstruction must (always) follow military operations. The European Union has a qualitative advantage in this respect, according to von der Leyen: its capacity to combine civilian and military ».

Comment: this agreement illustrates two sides of the same situation. On the one hand, a certain mismanagement in defense spending in Europe. The construction of the Karel Doorman was designed without a real investment/operation/utility ratio. Result: a ship that was expensive and risked being totally underemployed. On the other hand, a necessary rapprochement between two complementary forces which should lead to other rapprochements. At a time when certain defense budgets are on the rise again, it is important not to repeat the mistakes of the past: to spend without foreseeing the conditions and possibilities of engagement, without thinking, and to duplicate the resources that the neighbor already has in not filling the gaps, however, noted by all. The worst is possible. But Berlin and The Hague show us that other paths are possible. Now, we will have to see how this political rapprochement will materialize during operational engagements.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Crazy laughs

Beyond the words, there was undeniably between the two women, a real complicity, bursts of laughter. After the traditional review of the troops, assured with seriousness, the two women were all smiles, making the wrong initials to sign, then wondering then - "where are we going now".

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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).