Toespraak minister Kajsa Ollongren van Defensie Berlin Security Conference

Toespraak van minister Kajsa Ollongren van Defensie tijdens de Berlin Security Conference op 30 november 2023.

Thank you, Minister Pistorius, for your inspiring introduction. 

Distinguished guests, dear colleagues, 

‘The light will win’, a Ukrainian soldier said to me when I visited Kharkiv and Kyiv a few weeks ago. ‘The light’, a beautifully chosen word referring to values we all hold dear: democracy, peace, freedom. Defending their country and their values for almost two years, Ukraine’s leadership as well as Ukrainian soldiers and citizens are determined to prevail. 

With that same determination, we Europeans need to step up our game, build a credible European defence policy and strengthen our position as a key pillar within NATO. No single nation can tackle today’s threats on its own. We cannot shy away from what is happening in the world. A strong Europe is of the utmost importance for our security. Together, we must take more responsibility. The same goes for our unique and very successful bilateral military cooperation. 

And with you Boris, I am happy that we will today reconfirm this strong cooperation with the renewal of the 2019 Declaration of Intent. A new boost for the further development of our strong cooperation.

The reasons are obvious: times have changed. It’s fair to say that we face the most serious threat to global security in decades. The two most imminent crises: Russia’s invasion in Ukraine and the situation in the Middle East. 

The cease-fire in Gaza is a ray of light and gives us hope, but what is needed is a continuation of the current ceasefire. The humanitarian situation remains extremely serious and the answer to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is farther off than it has ever been. We mourn the victims of the massacre on the 7th of October, like we mourn the innocent victims in Gaza, many of them children. This must stop. 

At the same time, we must continue our focus on regions like the Sahel, the Asia-Pacific area, the Western Balkans and Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Dear colleagues, 

In the face of the numerous threats we confront it is time for Europe to play its role as a sovereign, self-aware continent. A continent prepared to defend its own security. A continent with its own history, its own narrative, and potential, perhaps capable of acting as an honest broker, bridging seemingly intractable differences between global powers. 

The European Union has always been a peace project. Wars have been fought close to home, such as in the Balkans, but never within the Union. For countries outside the EU, membership is both a reward and a promise of peace and stability. 

To keep it that way, it is essential that we act now. Europe must re-learn deterrence. We must make long-term, structural investments in strengthening our armed forces. The EU cannot be a soft power, without possessing hard power. 

In this regard, I’d like to praise Germany, and praise you, Minister Pistorius, for your leadership. On November 9th, you announced doubling military aid to Ukraine next year. As the most populous country with a strong economy in the heart of Europe, Germany aims to be the backbone of Europe's deterrence and collective defence. Following Chancellor Scholz’s well-chosen words in his Zeitenwende speech, you are delivering the actions. I’d like to compliment you on that and thank you for your commitment.

Germany and the Netherlands are close allies. Together, after the second world war, we were founding members of the European project. Now, from day one, we have been catalysts of European support for Ukraine. We delivered Leopard tanks together, Panzer Howitzers (PH-2000), Patriot air defence systems, to name a few.  

Last week, I visited the EU Training Mission, EUMAM, in Lehnin, not far from here. It’s a vital element of EU military support to Ukraine, where German and Dutch troops are working together to prepare our Ukrainian allies for their fight against the invader. 

Minister Pistorius, I’m also proud to say our nations lead by example in bi-national army integration. The integration of three Dutch army combat brigades into German army divisions is truly unique, ensuring interoperability and operational effectiveness, as well as cost reduction. Not only in preparation and practice, but also on the ground like in Iraq and Lithuania. 

It's truly an example for strengthening military cooperation within the EU, and I hope that many other nations will follow. To make wise investments, European countries need to buy, maintain, and train together, sourcing European whenever possible. 

Dear colleagues, 

It is clear that European security is a shared responsibility. Europe must become capable of protecting its citizens and prepare for conflict on NATO territory. To put it simply: we must be able to fight. We must become “Kriegstüchtig”, as they say in Germany. 

We need to replenish our stocks: ammunition, fuel, equipment. We need to boost production capacity of the European defense industry. 

To that end, EU ministers issued a unified call for banks to increase their investments in the defense industry two weeks ago. We, on our side, promised to remove as many administrative obstacles as possible. 

To step up our production capacity, we must adopt creative and unorthodox measures. In the Netherlands, I’m exploring the possibility of using a national guarantee fund to pre-finance the production of weapons and ammunition. Also, I call on the next European Commission to prioritize the defense industry as a key portfolio and appoint a dedicated Commissioner to it. 

Since the Russian invasion, our position has been clear. We will support Ukraine "whatever it takes, as long as it takes". We must honour that pledge. It means meeting Ukrainian needs for both weapons and ammunition as well as spare parts, maintenance supplies, and ongoing training of Ukrainian forces. So they can continue their fight.  

The Netherlands has pledged at least 2 billion in military support for 2024. I’m very happy with the German allocation of 1.3 billion euros for Ukrainian air defense. In this context, for example, we intend to collaborate closely to facilitate the establishment of a Patriot Missile production line in Europe. 

For me it’s simple. The clock is ticking. If Europe does not find a solution to the problem of weapon production security, we will not be able to compete with powers that do. 

I think we have clear goals, ladies and gentlemen. They are logical steps to take. But the reality is: they will require hard work, creativity, political capital and political will.

NATO is and remains the cornerstone of our collective security. Our common task is to coordinate and complement NATO and EU strategy, such that 1+1=3.

The challenges we face are formidable, but so is our united will to create a more secure future. Let’s make sure Europe can continue to deliver peace and stability, and that it remains an aspiration for all. 

The light will win. 
Thank you.