May 18. 2024. 3:44

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Future EU defence cooperation should include NATO, says Dutch minister


Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton hailed on Thursday, their agreement declaring a flying unit of tanker and transport planes operational as a ‘perfect example of NATO-EU cooperation’ that should inspire future defence cooperation.

The unit, which was initially created in 2016, is mainly intended to aid fighter jets refuel in-flight, but also to transport people, freight and conduct medical evacuations. While the Netherlands and Luxembourg initially founded the unit, Germany, Belgium, Norway, and the Czech Republic have since joined.

“The A330 MMU fleet of tanker and transport aircraft is a textbook example of European defence cooperation. Today, at the fleet’s home base Eindhoven Air Base, I am joined by Jens Stoltenberg and Thierry Breton as we reflect on this unique multinational capability”, Ollongren tweeted.

“Tanker aircraft are the backbone of NATO’s air power. In Eindhoven, I welcomed that our multinational fleet of tanker transport aircraft is now ready for a full range of missions. A perfect example of NATO–EU cooperation, delivering key capabilities for our security”, Stoltenberg stated.

“The Multinational MRTT Unit shows how strong NATO and the EU are when they join forces,” said Ollongren. “Let it be an inspiration for many more projects. This is what future defence cooperation should look like,” Ollongren also said.

“The Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport Fleet is a strategic asset for Europe’s security & capacity to project forces. This programme is an example of what we can achieve when we cooperate at the EU level and with NATO. A stronger Europe in defence means a stronger NATO”, Breton tweeted.

The unit has already been used in Poland shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as for evacuation purposes during the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2021. Five A330 MMU models are stationed at the Eindhoven Air Base, while the remaining four are in Cologne.

With the ‘Initial Operational Capable’ label, the unit can now be used anywhere in the world. The next step would be ‘Full Operational Capable’, allowing the unit to carry out any task.

(Benedikt Stöckl | EURACTIV.com)