Netherlands to increase defence spending in wake of downed flight MH17

Dutch King Willem-Alexander (left) addresses the Dutch Senate and House of Representatives from the throne in the Hall of Knights next to Queen Maxima, on Sept 16, 2014, in The Hague, the Netherlands. The Netherlands is to increase defence spend
Dutch King Willem-Alexander (left) addresses the Dutch Senate and House of Representatives from the throne in the Hall of Knights next to Queen Maxima, on Sept 16, 2014, in The Hague, the Netherlands. The Netherlands is to increase defence spending after being hard hit by global conflicts including the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, King Willem-Alexander said on Tuesday. -- PHOTO: AFP

THE HAGUE (AFP) - The Netherlands is to increase defence spending after being hard hit by global conflicts including the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, King Willem-Alexander said on Tuesday.

Giving his traditional opening of parliament speech, which this year marks the 200th anniversary of the Dutch kingdom, King Willem-Alexander highlighted the threats facing the Netherlands. "Conflicts happening thousands of kilometres away also stir emotions in our own country," he said in The Hague, where Prinsjesdag (Prince's Day) was celebrated with pomp and ceremony.

"The MH17 disaster, the situation in the Ukraine and the Middle East clearly shows how everything's connected," he said.

The Netherlands was deeply affected after flight MH17 was blown out of the sky over separatist-held eastern Ukraine in mid-July on its way between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board, most of them Dutch.

Kiev and the West have accused the pro-Russian separatists of shooting it down with a surface-to-air missile supplied by Moscow.

Moscow and the rebels deny this and point the finger at Kiev.

At home, King Willem-Alexander stressed a growing threat of radicalisation of young Muslims, with government tightening laws to prevent would-be jihadis from going to fight in Syria and Iraq.

The Hague recently saw a pro-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria protest and more than 100 Dutch citizens are believed to have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight.

"The situation in northern Iraq, Syria and Gaza is leading to tensions at home and feelings of helplessness and insecurity," the King said.

"The hatred that consumes people elsewhere in the world may not be allowed to get a foothold in our streets," he added, saying the battle against radicalisation was a key priority.

The Dutch government will increase its defence spending by 100 million euros ($129 million) per year from 2015, the King said.

"This is done based on growing tensions around the world and our responsibilities" as a country committed to global safety and security, said Willem-Alexander.

The announcement "broke the trend" of previous defence cutbacks and savings, the king said.

Next year the Dutch deficit will drop to 2.2 per cent of its gross domestic product, also making further cutbacks unnecessary, King Willem-Alexander said.

The King's address, mainly written by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, is his second since his enthronement last year.

King Willem-Alexander took over the large ceremonial constitutional monarchy from his mother Beatrix, who early last year announced her abdication after 33 years on the throne.