Drastic cuts in Dutch defence budget

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Dutch Defence Minister Hans Hillen has said that 10,000 army jobs will be cut in the next few years.

One month into the job, Mr Hillen explained to the Lower House that his department is seeking cuts of "hundreds of millions of euros". Precise figures are not available yet, pending an investigation into the financial situation of the Defence ministry. What is clear is that one in seven employees will lose their jobs in a ruthless economy drive; currently the ministry employs 48,000 military and 21,000 civilian personnel.

Exhausted The armed forces have been told to put the brakes on their spending commitments. As a result, maintenance work on army barracks will be suspended, and delivery of spare parts for military equipment has been delayed. This has led to a sharp reduction in the number of army, navy and airforce exercises involving frigates, Fennek vehicles, armoured howitsers, helicopters and F-16 fighterplanes.

Minister Hillen said that the armed forces had exhausted themselves, trying to realise their ambitions despite a shrinking budget. Redressing the balance is one of the aims of Mr Hillen, a weathered Christian Democrat and a skilled negotiator.

Skeletons Opposition Labour MP Angelien Eijsink reacted that she is "shocked by the skeletons tumbling out of the Defence ministry's cupboard", though praising Mr Hillen's frank appraisal of the situation. "The Labour Party has been warning about financial mismanagement at the Ministry of Defence. Now the employees will suffer." She is calling for a parliamentary inquiry to find out who is responsible for "this near-bankruptcy". The MP stopped short of pointing the finger at previous Ministers of Defence, Eijmert van Middelkoop of the Christian Union and rightwing liberal Henk Kamp.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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