German soldiers taking part in the Nijmegen Vierdaagse (Four-Day March). Photo: Depositphotos
The Netherlands and Germany have taken a big step towards combining their armed forces with the integration of the last Dutch brigade into the German army, NRC reported on Thursday.
The 13th Light Brigade, based in Oirschot, will come under the command of Germany’s 10 Panzer Division, creating an infantry with a combined strength of 50,000 troops. The total manpower of both countries’ armed forces is 89,000, of whom 24,000 are Dutch.
NRC said the merger was part of the Common Army Vision, a confidential agreement between the two countries’ armed forces, signed off on November 30 last year at a meeting in Dresden between Martin Wijnen, commander of the Dutch armed forces, and his German counterpart Alfons Mais.
It would represent the closest partnership between two countries in Nato and is part of a large-scale restructuring of the German army, which is due to take effect on April 1. Jean-Paul Duckers, the Netherlands’ acting commander of operations, told NRC: ‘Many people don’t realise how unique what we are doing is.’
The ministry for defence said no political decision had yet been taken and the Common Army Vision is a ‘proposal’. But defence minister Kajsa Ollongren told parliament in September that the option of integrating the 13th Light Brigade into the German army was being ‘investigated’.
The coalition agreement published last January and the defence department’s policy statement in June mentioned closer co-operation with Germany without going into detail.
The policy statement said the two countries would strengthen their combined operations, firepower and other capabilities, while the ‘further digitalisation’ of their armies in the coming years would play ‘a big role’.