PARIS – The Netherlands wants to join Europe’s Organisation for Joint Armament Co-Operation, as it seeks to be a driver of European defense cooperation and better position its industry, the Dutch Defense Ministry said on Thursday.
Joining the group, known by its French acronym OCCAR, is an important step towards stronger European defense cooperation and to properly position the Dutch defense industry, according to the ministry. Both are “badly needed due to the war in Ukraine and the tightness in the defense market,’’ the ministry said.
OCCAR is a European organization that manages defense-equipment projects, with an operational budget of about €6 billion ($6.5 billion) and a portfolio of 17 projects including the A400M air lifter, the FREMM multi-mission frigate and the Eurodrone. The group was founded in 2001 by France, the U.K., Germany and Italy, with Spain and Belgium joining several years later.
“The Russian war in Ukraine and increasing threats and conflicts globally underscore the importance of a strong European industrial base,’’ the Dutch ministry said.
The government “wants the Netherlands to play a leading role in driving European defense cooperation,” the ministry said.”Membership in OCCAR fits within that ambition.”
The Netherlands has boosted defense spending following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, with the budget for defense rising to €15 billion in 2023 from around €12 billion in 2022, and more than €21 billion budgeted for 2024.
The countries in OCCAR work together to lower costs and increase efficiency in the development and acquisition of new weapon systems, and joining will allow the Netherlands to remain close to key European partners, and accelerate the implementation of equipment projects, the ministry said.
Membership will also allow Dutch defense companies to more easily participate in projects managed by the group, as well as compete for European projects, even if the Netherlands does not participate itself.
Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren informed parliament of the intention to join. The intention will be assessed by the OCCAR members, and actual accession for the Netherlands will go through a parliamentary treaty procedure, according to the ministry.
Rudy Ruitenberg is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. He started his career at Bloomberg News and has experience reporting on technology, commodity markets and politics.