EDNL - Farewell Speech by Willem van Eekelen, Honorary President of Eurodefense Netherlands


Farewell video of Dr. Wim van Eekelen as president of Eurodefense Nederland.

Van Eekelen founded Eurodefense Nederland in 1994 and chaired the chapter until 2020. He is also the former Minister of Defence of The Netherlands, and Secretary General of the Western European Union. This speech was delivered at the Eurodefense President's Council in Lisbon 16 to 18th of June, 2021. Transcript: Message to Eurodefense June 2021 Dear Colleagues, Dear President, My wife and I are very sorry that we are unable to join you at the annual Eurodefense session, this year in Portugal. Thanks to the assistance of Ernst van Hoek, my successor as President of Eurodefense Netherlands. I would like to leave some thoughts with you about the future of Eurodefense. 1. The active participation of France and Germany will be necessary for any successful effort. Our common efforts will be needed to develop a framework that benefits all by stressing joint capabilities. “Nobody can do it alone” and “Security through participation” were some of my slogans! The Netherlands provided an example by joint management with Belgium of our Navies , and by a joint army division with Germany. But these examples are bilateral and we need more integration. 2. The ongoing cooperation in PESCO is useful, but not enough. It includes almost all EU members, but is piecemeal. We need joint capabilities which are available immediately when a crisis erupts. That means a joint planning capability, a command structure, and the availability of pre-planned units of at least 5000 personnel. During my time in WEU, I advocated “force packages” for specific scenarios. The EU followed this up with a “headline goal” of 50-60.000 for European action. Our Working Group 27 under the able chairmanship of Iric van Doorn has provided a long term vision which merits implementation. Europe has to be able to act in a splintering world. That sounds better than “strategic autonomy” ! 3. One of the problems we encounter is that some members are less keen to integrating capabilities than others. That should not keep us from trying, possibly by splitting the membership into 2 or even more groups depending on their willingness to move forward. But some common planning and command arrangements will be necessary. 4. Since we started Eurodefense in 1994 things have changed. Russia has become less amenable than under Gorbachev, and China has shown remarkable progress, also in the military domain. But even more remarkable was the upsurge in “Hybrid Warfare”, where military objectives are mixed with or even hidden under political / strategic moves. As we are increasingly preoccupied with climate change, organised crime, especially drugs, terrorism, illegal immigration, and the transformation of previously homogeneous states, our soldiers become policemen, and the “guardian soldier” needs a mixture of decisiveness and tolerance. That underlines the necessity of regular European strategic assessments. 5. Of course we want to be able to take our own decisions, but that does not mean that “strategic autonomy” is always achievable, let alone desirable. We need further proofs of integration and effectiveness. These words have unnecessarily spoiled the atmosphere in NATO. 6. What are our aims in the world: Stability, but what does that mean ? In my view at least 5 elements: the rule of law, pluralistic democracy, democratic control of the military and the defence budget, market economy, and good neighbourliness. You will notice that only one out of 5 deals with the military. I believe that to be proof of the fact that the enlarged European Union contributes far more to stability than any other body could achieve. I hope you will continue to discuss these and other subjects. I have greatly enjoyed us working together. Looking back, Europe did not do so badly. Now we look at the younger generation, several of whom are coming to the Portugal meeting.

Welcome to you. I wish you well.


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