Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere revealed Tuesday at the Berlin Strategy Conference the two countries will expand military cooperation, including the integration of the Netherlands' 11 Airmobile Brigade with the new German Schnelle Krafte paratrooper commando division.
The German unit, to become operational next year, will share a control structure with the Dutch force while the two will remain stationed at their current locations under the new declaration of intent.
"The German and Dutch armed forces are ready to take their cooperation to an unprecedented level of integration," Hennis-Plasschaert said. "It entails the harmonization of requirements, procedures, education and training."
Calling it "of the utmost importance," the Dutch minister praised the integration move as indication that Europe is taking more responsibility for its own security at a time when the United States is shifting its focus to the Pacific.
"If we want the United States to remain the indispensable partner in European security it has been for over 65 years, we have to carry our share of the burden, including the risks," she said.
Besides the integration of the airmobile brigade with the German force, the countries announced an enhancement of the existing integration of their land-based Patriot air and missile defense units as well as increased cooperation will be the field of submarine construction, where the two countries hope to achieve economies of scale and to pool expertise.
Military education and training also are be included in the agreement -- a bid to better utilize "scarce and expensive resources and capabilities" at a time when Europe is facing a financial crisis.
"We want to promote our relations in all areas of security, in arms and in the area of operations," de Maiziere said.
A Dutch mechanized infantry division is already based in Germany because the Netherlands' own army has no more armor.
For Germany's part, the Dutch agreement is part of a broader effort in which it is stepping up to the role as a lead nation in coordinating European security efforts, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.
It came only a day after de Maiziere signed an agreement with his Polish counterpart to set out cooperation between the two countries' navies, due in large part to financial constraints they are facing.
"Germany's responsibility has changed," he said. "Today we a united, strong and sovereign country responsibility for stability and security in the world."
But such moves toward more trans-European cooperation in planning, acquisition, training and logistical support are facing concerns about the erosion of national sovereignty and the roles national parliaments will play in the future.
Hennis-Plasschaert said traditional notions of sovereignty are "the main political obstacle to closer military cooperation" and called for "breaking new ground" with a redefinition of the term.
"If we need to guarantee our sovereignty with military means, cooperation is vital," she said.
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