Defence does not seem to have to worry about its budget after the Dutch elections. Many political parties want to allocate more money to the ministry. At the same time the European Commission advocates “flagship projects” based on European cooperation that should make the European defence industry a global frontrunner.
After the fall of communism, the Dutch military has been cut back for decades. In recent years, more money has gone to it again. The Rutte III cabinet has increased the budget by a structural EUR 1.7 billion. A move supported by most political parties.
Even the originally pacifist GroenLinks does not want to take more money away from the armed forces. ‘You can’t make any more cuts in the defence apparatus if you’re serious about it,’ said MP Tom van den Nieuwenhuijzen.
NATO target versus task specialisation
In NATO, it was agreed at a summit in Wales in 2014 that each member would spend two per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on defence by 2024. But few countries, and certainly not the Netherlands, meet this target.
The political parties CDA and SGP want to lay down in law that this target will be reached in 2030. The VVD thinks it is a nice goal and wants to move “towards” the two per cent, said candidate MP Ruben Brekelmans. The rest are not so quick on the uptake.
PvdA, D66 and GroenLinks want to focus on more task specialisation. According to Kavish Bisseswar, the number fourteen of the PvdA, this can be done in, for example, cyber and submarines. GroenLinks also advocates this.
And they all agree that there should be more cooperation within Europe. The Americans no longer guarantee the safety of Europe. ‘The course of the United States depends very much on the president who sits there,’ says Brekelmans.
Opinions differ mainly on the extent of that cooperation in Europe. D66 and GroenLinks go furthest in this respect. They want to work towards a European defence force. For almost all parties, NATO remains a cornerstone of security.
Leader in space and defence technology
In addition, the European Commission (EC) said the EU must put more energy into drone technology, space communications and the management of space traffic. The EC is calling for the creation of “flagship projects” in which civilian, space and defence industries share their research results and innovations, to make Europe a world leader.
To achieve this, member states must cooperate more with each other and also “cross-pollinate” with the United States and other like-minded countries, the EU executive says. Optimal use must be made of existing EU programmes and funds, including the European Defence Fund, from which a total of EUR 8 billion can be raised in the next seven years. In this way, the EU can increase its competitiveness.
Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said cooperation between industries is needed for some key technologies. Presenting an action plan, she pointed to good examples that in the past have led, for example, to GPS, the internet ‘and even duct tape’.
The commission also wants the EU to become less dependent on key technologies developed outside the EU. In addition, industrial leadership will help the EU recover from the corona crisis, it believes.