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Research Report

Defence Cooperation in Clusters: Identifying the Next Steps

Margriet Drent
Dick Zandee
Lo Casteleijn
Copyright Date: Oct. 1, 2014
Published by: Clingendael Institute
Pages: 26
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 5-6)

    With the deteriorating security situation on Europe’s borders, the need for countries to maintain and modernise the capabilities of their armed forces and to address the shortfalls identified by the EU and NATO is even more important than in the past. Financial austerity and the advantages of economies of scale require the development of joint approaches, as well as closer political cooperation. A number of like-minded countries, often neighbours, have adopted the approach of working together in groups of countries, or clusters. The Benelux countries and Germany and the Netherlands are among them.

    In 2012 a Declaration was signed between...

  2. (pp. 7-11)

    Parliaments are vital in enabling clusters of cooperation to function well. They provide a large part of the political legitimacy of defence cooperation and have to be able to hold the government accountable. To further deepen defence clusters and cooperation, it is important that also parliaments understand the political, strategic and military consequences. Therefore, greater parliamentary involvement in clusters of defence cooperation can be regarded as an indispensable element in making them work. Executives can sign Memoranda of Understanding, enter into multinational procurement programmes and assign troops to international rapid reaction forces, but without sufficient support from their legislatures, these...

  3. (pp. 12-15)

    Defence cooperation in bilateral or regional clusters has notably advanced in the operational area, from common training and exercises to combining units of different nations into larger formations, such as the merging of the German Division Schnelle Kräfte and the Dutch Air Mobile Brigade. In other areas like the acquisition of new equipment cluster cooperation is moving forward more slowly, while the potential benefits are great. Armed forces using the same equipment can reach the highest levels of interoperability. Partner countries can also share training and maintenance facilities, thus reducing life-cycle costs. The Belgian-Netherlands naval cooperation (Benesam) with one school...

  4. (pp. 16-19)

    Defence cooperation in clusters has also raised the issue of the relationship of the clusters with the EU/EDA and NATO. Concerns have been expressed that overall coordination is missing. As a result clusters could perhaps set the wrong priorities when compared to the collective needs of the international organisations, or they could duplicate each other. The EU/EDA and NATO are now addressing the relationship between the clusters and their own roles and tasks in capability development. For this purpose a policy framework is under development in the EU. Recently, the EDA has also reviewed the Capability Development Plan. In NATO...

  5. (pp. 20-22)

    A way for parliaments to create favourable conditions, requirements and incentives for deeper defence cooperation is through the method of a so-called ‘defence agreement’, which is a multi-year consensus on defence encompassing coalition and opposition parties and governments, based on all stakeholders, including experts.

    The goal of defence agreements should be to create stability and clarity for a number of years on the purpose of, and planning for, the armed forces. It would transcend a change of government, because it involves as many political parties as possible.

    Defence agreements can make defence cooperation with other countries easier by enhancing reliability,...