Allied Joint Force Command Headquarters Brunssum, JFC HQ Brunssum, is located in Brunssum, Limburg, the Netherlands, in the heart of Northwest Europe - an area which is often referred to as "the balcony of Europe", or "land without frontiers" because of its easy access to several countries. JFC HQ Brunssum was built upon the former HQ Allied Forces Central Europe's (HQ AFCENT) infrastructure, which has been in use since 1967, and former RHQ AFNORTH.
Two factors led to the establishment of HQ AFCENT here. First, when France withdrew from NATO's integrated military structure in 1966 it became necessary for AFCENT to vacate its headquarters in the French town of Fontainebleau where it had been established since its inception in 1953. At the same time, the closure of Limburg's coalmines, following the discovery of large quantities of natural gas in Groningen, led to the offer by the Netherlands government to NATO to use the former Hendrik Mine infrastructure in Brunssum. Consequently AFCENT moved into its new home on March 15, 1967. On June 1, 1967, the official inauguration ceremony took place at Brunssum.
On March 3, 2000, Headquarters AFCENT stood down and the new Regional Headquarters Allied Forces North Europe (RHQ AFNORTH) assumed command. The AFNORTH Area of Responsibility kept its regional focus in Northern Europe.
On July 1, 2004, Allied Forces North Europe (AFNORTH) ceased to exist, and became Joint Force Command (JFC) Headquarters Brunssum. This is more than just a mere name change for the NATO buildings and offices located in Brunssum; it is a part of a major realignment of forces and command restructuring that NATO is undertaking.
The restructuring process was initiated during the Prague Summit in November of 2002. During the Summit, Alliance members decided to change the structure of NATO commands in order to more effectively handle the security challenges of the 21th century. NATO's operational headquarters will no longer be tied to regional areas, giving NATO greater flexibility with the commands.
Restructuring the commands was completed in 2005.