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Germany strengthens military cooperation with the Netherlands

Berlin has signed a deal that will lead to further integration of German naval forces with the Dutch military. The move is being hailed as an important step in the creation of united European armed forces.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday confirmed an agreement that will see some 800 German soldiers integrated into the Dutch navy.

While in Amsterdam, where she met with the Dutch Defense Minister, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, von der Leyen called the plan a "prime example for the building of a European defense union."

In exchange for the German battalion, which will be subordinate to the Dutch navy until 2018 and includes mine detectors, reconnaissance and commando units, Berlin will share the use of an ultramodern Dutch supply ship.

An 'extraordinary' partnership

The 205-meter (673-foot) ship, the "Karel Doorman," is equipped to carry Leopard 2 battle tanks.

"This cooperation shows the extraordinary depth of the partnership with the Netherlands, above all their great and mutual trust," von der Leyen said.

Germany and the Netherlands have been making strides to integrate their militaries since 1995. Plans for a fully integrated European army, however, remained stalled.

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blc/sms (AFP, dpa)

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