Soldiers march on The Hague
Thousands of soldiers and defence civilian staff are demonstrating in The Hague today in protest against huge cuts in the defence budget and the large number of compulsory redundancies.
Two groups of demonstrators will march to a rally outside the Dutch parliament. Military staff do not actually have the right to strike; many of them have therefore taken a day off to attend the demonstration, while others have been given leave. Around 5,000 people are expected to attend the rally organised by army unions.
Defence Minister Hans Hillen will address the rally. Questions will also be put to MPs.
In the next four years, the Ministry of Defence plans to cut 1 billion euros from its budget and scrap 12,000 of the 69,000 jobs. Six thousand members of staff face compulsory redundancy.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal told cadets at the Netherlands Defence Academy in Breda that the work of Dutch troops, diplomats and development workers abroad did matter. He mentioned operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban and off the coast of Somalia against piracy.
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