Since 1948, the Belgian and the Dutch navies have looked for opportunities to cooperate, which has evolved into an ever-deepening collaboration in the domains of training, education, and maintenance. This cooperation culminated in 1997 with a bi-national operational command and organization called Admiral Benelux, or ABNL. To address the two sensitive political considerations related to sovereignty and strategic agility, the navies opted for task specialization, which resulted in a single-nation support approach for the ships of both countries. The main effort for the common support of the frigates lies with the Netherlands, while Belgium takes care of the mine countermeasures vessels. Despite the economic crisis and the resulting financial cuts that severely hit the defense budgets, Belgium maintained its capability to deploy and operate both frigates and mine hunters, which is reflected in participation in several EU and NATO operations and standing naval groups.
The successful, effective, and innovative form of specialization between the two navies led to the renewal of a BENELUX defense cooperation agreement signed at the Ministry of Defence level in April 2012 to enhance collaboration between the respective armies and air forces. Today, ABNL is the most accomplished form of defense collaboration in Europe, and probably unique in the world. Having a long tradition of international and interdepartmental cooperation, we can consider the Belgian Navy to be still setting trends today.