Speaking points at the DSEI reception by the State Secretary for Defence Christophe van der Maat

Speaking points at the reception of the Defence and Security Equipment International Event (DSEI) by the State Secretary for Defence, Christophe van der Maat on September 12, 2023 in London.

  • Ladies en gentlemen, nice to meet you. I'm impressed by the large number of organizations and companies showcasing themselves at the DSEI-exhibition. Very inspiring! Compliments to everyone who has a part in this.
  • First of all I would like to mention the 50th anniversary of the UK/NL Amphibious Force: Europe’s oldest integrated force. I’m very pleased that we have renewed this special collaboration during our navel days at the end of June.
  • Considering the current global security climate, this strong and special relationship is more relevant and valuable than ever.
  • One of the founders of this cooperation was the dutch colonel Adriaan Lamers. He consulted with Colonel General Staff to the Commandant General Royal Marines, David Alexander. The latter aimed to quickly bring about a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under the motto ‘don't worry about money, we'll sort that out later’.
  • In some way this motto still speaks to us. Because the budget cuts after the fall of the Berlin Wall resulted into an organization that is very good at not spending money; turning every dime twenty times around to delay spending.
  • Our procurement organization lost a lot of its capability for example. Therefore we also need to re-learn how to spend the extra money wisely and quickly. And unfortunately in a time were many countries need the same stuff.
  • But let me bring it in a positive way:
    There is a strong awareness that as Europe, we need to do more to protect our own security and way of life. With the substantial and massive increase in European defense budgets, an important step has been taken.
  • The question is mainly how to use that extra money concretely and efficiently. The short answer is: quickly, wisely, and together!
  • We need to accelerate when the situation demands it, and for that, we need the industry. For instance, the war in Ukraine has clearly revealed that Europe produces too little (critical) ammunition itself. Armed forces want to replenish their stockpiles, while Ukraine is consuming many times more than we currently produce.
  • There is, therefore, a significant need for a resilient industry that can rapidly scale up. I’m also aware of the fact that it is only worthwhile for companies to invest in increased production capacity if governments guarantee a certain demand for an extended period. In return, the industry must make effective use of this opportunity.
  • In addition to working faster, we also need to work smarter. For example, through standardization. Europe has sixteen types of combat aircraft, twelve types of tanks, and 33 types of frigates. This is not ideal.
  • And above all, we have to work together. That is the biggest cliché of the evening, but still not a given. But I am also positive about this. For example: a few weeks ago France has decided to participate in the Dutch-Belgian project to replace our mine countermeasure vessels.
  • This is a great and significant example of how European defense cooperation should look in the future. The war in Ukraine also underscores the importance of this maritime capability.
  • In closing, this brings me back to our UK/NL Amphibious Force partnership. This collaboration demonstrates what you can achieve together.
  • Our cooperation has been a joint process of trial and error, with both progress and setbacks along the way. Both sides showing a great degree of adaptability and ability to improvise.
  • The Netherlands Marine Corps has learned a lot from its British neighbours. We have aligned language, training, procedures and materiel. We have almost complete interoperability: key condition to successful cooperation.
  • This further professionalisation has transformed the Netherlands Marine Corps from the little brother of the Royal Marines into an equal and reliable partner.
  • This shows that where there is a will there is a way, and that close cooperation is possible and more than worth the effort.

Thank you.