Speech by Stef Blok at European Gendarmerie Force meeting

Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok at the European Gendarmerie Force (EUROGENDFOR) High Level Interdepartmental Committee (CIMIN) meeting, on 12 December 2019.

Generals, General Leijtens, Colonel Zirone, ladies and gentlemen,

The ship of tomorrow ... a reality today!

It was under this slogan that the largest passenger ship ever built left the port of Rotterdam and steamed its way to New York.

The year: 1959. Its name: the SS Rotterdam.

The phrase was most likely a reference to the ship’s ultramodern design and furnishings. And perhaps also to the fact that its second-class passengers were allowed on all the decks. Revolutionary for that time!

The ship’s hiring policy was just as progressive.

From the outset, its crew was a mix of nationalities. For example, most of the cooks were German.

I’m told that the international crew got on very well. No ‘Mutiny on the SS Rotterdam’, but effective collaboration. A real team.

Maybe the delicious strudel prepared by the German cooks had something to do with it. But perhaps a better explanation is that diverse teams tend to be strong teams.

Yet that’s no news to you.

Your ability to work with and in international teams has proven to be a powerful asset.

International cooperation doesn’t always have the best of reputations.

Cumbersome and toothless…

All talk and no action…

Forever stuck in compromise...

Those are only a few of the perceptions people have.

EUROGENDFOR has demonstrated that the exact opposite can be true.

You have shown that working together in an international context can make us more agile and more flexible.

And that’s what’s needed to respond to current global security challenges and threats.

Those threats and challenges are fragmented, diverse, and all around us.

Take the unrest not far from Europe’s border. In the Middle East and the Sahel region.

Terrorist attacks are a real threat in many places around the world.

And ISIS terror has triggered migration flows to Europe.

Meanwhile, global power relations are changing rapidly.

Responding adequately to these threats and challenges requires specialist knowledge. Cooperation. And the ability to anticipate.

Investing in the armed forces is not enough. Global security is also about averting conflict, chaos and violence.

Or to put it another way: prevention is better than cure.

Better border management is one place to start. And EU CSDP missions are an essential tool for enhancing international stability.

International teamwork is not always easy. But it pays off in the end. The capacity building mission to Niger is a great example of this. Within a few months, you trained 262 police officers there.

I understand that the local authorities greatly appreciated your efforts. Senior police official Haro Ammani put it very simply: ‘The training is important, because it improves our work.’

And indeed, that’s a great result of an integrated and multinational approach. But your modus operandi is perhaps even more of an accomplishment.

The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, the Bundespolizei, FRONTEX and EUROGENDFOR worked closely as a team. Each contributing its own specialist knowledge.

I’m a firm believer in this type of cooperation. And I believe that in the future, we should invest in it even more.

In the Netherlands, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence work together closely on the deployment of gendarmerie missions.

This allows us to respond to challenges in a more decisive and agile fashion. I wanted to share this best practice with you, because interministerial cooperation of this kind is not a given.

Second, I believe we should invest more in cooperation with the EU.

EUROGENDFOR can provide a host of knowledge and expertise. And it has the potential to further strengthen common security and defence policy.

By working together, we can make our voice heard in Brussels and contribute to the EU’s common security and defence goals.

The EU Civilian CSDP Compact is a valuable instrument for strengthening links between the work done by EUROGENDFOR and the civilian CSDP.

The Compact aims to make the Common Security and Defence Policy more effective and more flexible.

And EUROGENDFOR does just that. The ongoing development of specialist teams means we’ll be able to contribute strong, short-term capacities that have the potential to strengthen CSDP missions in a unique way.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s ceremony marks the handover of the EUROGENDFOR presidency to France.

I commend Hans Leijtens, Commander of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee, for both his leadership and his future-oriented perspective.

I encourage General François Gieré to continue on this same path.[1] By focusing on cooperation, flexibility and an integrated approach.

I’d also like to commend EUROGENDFOR’s Commander, Giuseppe Zirone, who continues to build on the organisation’s track record of responding flexibly and pooling the knowledge of experts from different gendarmerie forces.

This is not only of essential value now, it also sets an example for the future.

Or, to package it in a slogan:

"Eurogendfor. The specialized units of tomorrow ... a reality today!"

Thank you