Netherlands and Belgium united against terrorism

Following the Thalassa talks between the Dutch and Belgian governments, the two countries are further increasing cooperation in the areas of defence, counterterrorism, security, embassies and energy.

Members of the Dutch and Belgian governments met at the Ministry of General Affairs and the Mauritshuis museum today to discuss subjects such as security and terrorism, employment, and energy. Afterwards, four detailed agreements on closer cooperation between the Netherlands and Belgium were signed.

One of the agreements provides that Belgium and the Netherlands will share alternating responsibility for policing the two countries' airspace against civil aircraft that may pose a terrorist threat. The treaty, signed by Dutch Minister of Defence Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and her Belgian counterpart Steven Vandeput, is a breakthrough in the bid to deepen European defence cooperation. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel both emphasised after the talks the importance of close cooperation in the fight against extremism and terrorism. 'Cooperation is more crucial than ever, given the current international situation. Combating terrorism is a shared challenge,' said Mr Rutte.

Aerial firefighting, defence, embassies and energy

Another area in which the two countries will step up cooperation is wildfire suppression. It has now been agreed that Dutch military helicopters may be deployed to fight large-scale wildfires in Belgium.

In addition, the two countries will share embassy premises in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Sharing premises and staff is an attractive prospect, especially at smaller missions. This new arrangement falls under a pre-existing agreement made by the Netherlands and Belgium in 2012. The Netherlands intends to continue assessing where resources could be shared.

The two governments also signed a declaration of intent on strengthening energy cooperation.

Close ties

The Netherlands and Belgium are neighbours who maintain close political, cultural and economic ties. In 2013 reciprocal trade totalled almost €90 billion. In international forums like the Benelux, the EU, NATO and the UN, the two countries work together closely.

Mr Rutte and Mr Michel were joined at the Thalassa talks by 22 members of government. It was the third edition of the talks, which take their name from the ship on which they were first held in 2003.

Sierre coach crash memorial service

While in The Hague, Mr Michel invited Mr Rutte to join him at the memorial service for victims of the 2012 Sierre coach crash. Mr Rutte accepted the invitation to the service, being held on 13 March.